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Super volunteers have more answers than Regis Philbin

Ready for any question, task force members prepare for the onslaught at Tampa International.

By BABITA PERSAUD

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 25, 2001


TAMPA -- Staffing the Super Bowl information table near an escalator Wednesday at Tampa International Airport, Elizabeth Todd must have said "Welcome to Tampa Bay" dozens of times.

Today, she will say it hundreds more. "It's going to be huge," said the volunteer greeter and former nurse.

Today the Super Bowl hordes begin to descend, thousands of them, with Super Bowl tickets and four-day hotel reservations in hand.

They will arrive at Tampa International Airport with questions:

Where's the stadium?

How much is a cab?

Where are the players staying?

That's where volunteers like Todd come in. The Super Bowl Task Force assembled a small army of them -- 125 in all, more than the two previous Tampa Super Bowls. They're ready with the answers.

"And we are going to need that many," said Karen Ryals, volunteer co-captain.

The smiling greeters are stationed at welcome booths and folding tables near baggage claim downstairs and the restaurants and shops upstairs. Their job: Hand out city brochures and Gasparilla info, drape beads over heads and answer questions, although not all of them are football related: Do you have a pen? Where's McDonald's?

Only 10 volunteers worked Wednesday and although it wasn't slow, said Anna Innis, a diver at the Florida Aquarium, it was steady. "It is picking up," she said.

The volunteers have been at the airport since Saturday. Usually 20 people work the day, in four-hour shifts. Thursday's ranks were increased with the help of Home Shopping Network, which loaned 55 of its employees for the day.

Monday, the day after the game, is another busy day, said Ryals, with 80 volunteers.

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