Ybor home base for Super revelers
The bar-heavy district opens its doors and closes some streets for one of the biggest weekends ever.
|[Times photo: Chris Schneider]
David Copperfield, center, uses wax to seal a locked box containing his Super Bowl prediction as Tampa Mayor Dick Greco inspects his work at Centro Ybor on Thursday. The box will be opened Monday.
By KATHRYN WEXLER
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 26, 2001
TAMPA -- It took approximately 30 seconds for Mike Caggiano and his buddy Brian Swords to drop their bags in a St. Petersburg hotel, then grab a taxi and bolt to Tampa's de facto Party Central.
"This is Ground Zero," said Swords, an investment banker who lives in mid-Manhattan, draining a plastic cup of Budweiser beer on a wind-whipped Seventh Avenue on Thursday evening.
Plans to take in Tampa's museums, alternative theater, or tour the historic University of Tampa, perhaps?
Heck, no, not for these New York Giants diehards. It will be Ybor City all day, every day. And nights, too.
"We're sophisticados," said Caggiano, a New Jersey resident with Super Bowl tickets and a nice supply of sarcastic one-liners.
Ybor City, rebuilt and re-marketed since the last time the Super Bowl rolled into town, is expected to become Tampa's unofficial welcome mat for the partying masses in the following days. In an unusual move, officials have closed a huge swath of the bar-heavy district to traffic from Thursday through Super Bowl Sunday.
And to make the place especially accommodating for people like Swords, no one drinking in plain view of officers will be doing anything the Tampa City Council would disapprove of. A permit for outdoor drinking on certain streets was granted for the four-day Anheuser-Busch-sponsored block party, called Bud Bowl. "Tonight is the child-birthing night," said Tampa police Maj. Rick Duran, gearing up for the anticipated hullabaloo. "We've never had Ybor City shut down to traffic for this many days."
Despite the free concert with local performers and the Budweiser kickoff with eight Clydesdale horses prancing up Seventh Avenue, crowds on the cold Thursday night weren't exactly dense.
A little bit of calm was just fine with Tampa resident Ed Ryon.
"We decided to check out Ybor while you can still park."
Jamie Sofroney, a vacationing U.S. marshal from New Jersey, got to Ybor at 1:30 p.m. Sofroney's aspirations for Super Bowl week didn't have anything to do with nabbing tickets to Raymond James Stadium.
"I'm hoping to hook up with the woman of my dreams," he said.
Mayor Dick Greco, never far from any fun, also showed up Thursday and looked around happily at the spectators who came to see magician David Copperfield make a prediction about who would win the Super Bowl.
"The last Super Bowl, a lot of people had a lot of things on their mind," Greco said, referring to the Persian Gulf war being fought the last time the game was in Tampa. "I see a real looseness now."
Copperfield's prediction was sealed until Monday. Tina Schleiger, from Lincoln, Neb., in the area to visit friends, wondered about Copperfield's abilities.
"Ask Mr. Copperfield if he can make four tickets magically appear," she said.
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