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'CBS South' invades Saddlebrook Resort in Pasco


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 26, 2001

WESLEY CHAPEL -- The invitations are out; some of the RSVPs are back. Pasco County's Saddlebrook Resort will become "CBS South" for the Super Bowl weekend.

While the Tampa Bay area oozes celebrities, bigwigs, jocks, pols, stars, teen idols and corporate icons, Pasco's share will include some of the biggest names in prime time television.

CBS television primetime publicity manager Pam Gorode said last-minute changes are expected right up to the weekend, but so far she has confirmed that many of the network's stars will be staying at the Wesley Chapel resort.

Big names include the entire cast of the comedy Everybody Loves Raymond, with star Ray Romano playing out a real-life version of his popular show: Romano's sportswriter character goes to the Super Bowl in Monday's scheduled episode.

"Pretty much name a CBS show and they'll be there," Gorode said Wednesday. "Some of the shows are in production, so they can't, but we have a lot of people coming."

The full list, she said, won't be known until game day, but all of the CBS guests get tickets to the game, which the network is broadcasting.

Saddlebrook marketing chief Al Martinez-Fonts said Saddlebrook committed itself to the NFL guest list years ago as part of the region's bid for the biggest game of the year.

But who actually stays at the resort, he said, is up to the league and the television network, which was assigned to the resort.

Teams, he said, stay closer to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. "They are working, and they need to be closer to the stadium," he said. "The people here, they can do whatever they like."

And there is plenty to like.

The 480-acre resort, which hosted the nation's Republican governors for a conference in November, features shops, restaurants, two Arnold Palmer-designed, 18-hole golf courses and 45 tennis courts. Add to that a 7,800-square-foot spa that offers body treatments, facials, salon services with 12 private treatment rooms, a couple's room with soaking tub, a hydromassage tub, Vichy shower room, men's and women's dressing rooms, whirlpools, saunas and steam rooms, according to resort brochures.

Gorode said others on the confirmed list include Kevin James of the show The King of Queens. Bette Middler can't make it because her show is taping. Late night star David Letterman won't be at Saddlebrook, but his sidekick, Biff Henderson, will be, along with Late Late Show host Craig Kilborn.

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