NFL theme park promises chance to play like stars
The NFL Experience includes opportunities to see celebrities and try exercises like the real athletes do.
By BABITA PERSAUD
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 20, 2001
TAMPA -- If Warren Sapp can do it, you can, too. That's the spirit of the NFL Experience, a miniature football theme park set up outside Raymond James Stadium for Super Bowl XXXV. It opens today.
|[Times photo: John Pendygraft]
Warren Sapp, right, talks with NFL director of events Mary Pat Augenthaler after a walkthrough for the NFL Ultimate Defender Contest, which takes place at 11:30 this morning at the NFL Experience.
Here, you can run into padded posts and hopscotch through ropes, just like the real 300-pound defensive tackles do.
And here is where you might meet some of those players and other celebrities. MTV's popular Total Request Live (TRL) will be filming there Jan. 27 and Jan. 28. Expected to stop by: Jennifer Lopez and Ricky Martin.
The NFL Experience has virtually taken over the north lot outside Raymond James with big tents, flags, metal stands. It has the feeling of a state fair, albeit with a football edge.
There are 50 games, practice drills and exhibits, such as a play-by-play announcer booth, where you can pretend to be John Madden and get a copy of the tape to take home, for a fee.
Most of the games require some imagination. A flash of light on the grass that you race against is supposed to be Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George. Can you keep up?
But one of the most interesting exhibits is the most static.
It's the NFL locker room, a makeshift room where the jerseys of current players hang behind glass. Read the quotes on the wall: "Do it for the team and for this family."
Food, including barbecue sandwiches, will be sold at the Experience. It is open today and Sunday and Thursday through Sunday next week.
TODAY: At 11:30 a.m., see Warren Sapp and other NFL defensive players hop through obstacle courses in the Ultimate Defender Challenge. The challenge takes place rain or shine.
NFL "premier defensive players" will test speed, strength, endurance, agility in the two-minute drill, strongest man and fumble recovery. Scheduled to make an appearance: Jason Taylor (Miami Dolphins), Jevon Kearse (Tennessee Titans), Marcellus Wiley (Buffalo Bills), Brian Urlacher (Chicago Bears), La'Roi Glover (New Orleans Saints) and Mo Lewis (New York Jets).
The challenge will be taped today and shown on ESPN on Friday at 8:30 p.m and Jan. 29 at 3:30 p.m. The segment will also air on ESPN2 on Jan. 27 at 4 p.m.
SUNDAY: Noon-2:30 p.m.: Cheerleading Spirit Clinic with 1,000 young women from Tampa-area schools (grades five-12) go over football fundamentals, cheering skills and dance techniques.
Speeches given by four-time Olympic gold medalist Janet Evans, considered to be the best female distance swimmer in the nation, and professional race car driver Audrey Zavodsky.
JAN. 27: At 1 p.m., MTV's most popular show, Total Request Live with Carson Daly, will broadcast live from the NFL Experience. 98 Degrees will perform My Everything. Guests "dropping by" as they do on TRL include Ricky Martin, Eve and NFL football players. Also sometime that day, MTV will tape Rock 'n Jock Super Bowl XXXV from the Experience. The show isn't live. Appearances by Dan Marino, Rob Schneider, 98 Degrees, Colleen Haskell (Survivor), Jerry O'Connell, Shannon Elizabeth, Eve, Gena Lee Nolin and Ja Rule are scheduled. MTV veejay Ananda Lewis will be part of the show, which will air at 2 p.m. Jan. 27.
JAN. 28: Another live broadcast, but for the first time ever, TRL will not be on MTV, but CBS. Both have the same parent company, Viacom. CBS Sports Presents: MTV's TRL@The Super Bowl airs live Jan. 28 at noon.
How does it differ from MTV's TRL the previous day?
"With the music videos that we will play for that show, we went a little broader and more mainstream in our selection process. The football players and local Tampa audience will be the ones who decide what videos we play," Salli Frattini, an executive producer at MTV. Carson Daly hosts, and guests include 'N Sync and Aerosmith. Jennifer Lopez will perform Love Don't Cost a Thing and Play.
But the big question, can you see it?
"It's limited standing room," said Frattini. "It's a closed set except to the cast and ticketed audience (which MTV has selected already). If you do have a ticket to the NFL Experience and are here, you will be able to see it from the outskirts."
To stay up-to-date on special events at NFL Experience and player appearances call toll free 1-888-NFL-CARD (635-2273).
- Times staff writer Pamela Davis contributed to this report.
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