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Homeowners hope to win with rentals for Super Bowl

However, game organizers expect fans to opt for hotel rooms within a 90-mile radius. They say there are enough such rooms to accommodate the crowd.

By SUSAN THURSTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 3, 2000


TAMPA -- How much would you charge strangers to sleep in your bed, eat off your dishes and bathe in your shower for a week? Two thousand dollars? Ten thousand? Twenty thousand?

That's what some people hope to get for their homes during Super Bowl week.

Hundreds of Tampa Bay area homeowners have put their places up for rent for the Jan. 28 game at Raymond James Stadium. Call them smart or call them greedy. It's all part of Super Bowl hype.

Whether they'll cash in remains to be seen. So far, few people, if any, have actually rented out their homes. But they aren't discouraged. There's plenty of time to make plenty of deals.

"Everything is for sale. Everything is for rent," said Julie Jenkins, who's trying to lease her waterfront home in Tampa's Bel Mar Shores for $2,000 a day. "I really might make some money."

At least two Internet companies are seeking homeowners to list their properties for the football festivities. Clients pay up to $250 to get their places posted on Web sites.

Company officials predict the homes will become a hot commodity once hotels start selling out.

"I think the demand is pretty high," said Corinne Sanzone, sales manager for Event Accommodations. "There's absolutely not enough rooms."

Tens of thousands of visitors are expected to come to town during the week of the game. The task force organizing the Super Bowl puts the figure at more than 100,000, while the rental resource company estimates 165,000. Most will stay in hotels within a 90-mile radius.

Super Bowl officials say the area has more than enough rooms to accommodate the crowds. About 40,000 rooms are available, including 16,000 already under contract for NFL staff and media, said Reid Sigmon, director of operations for the Tampa Bay Super Bowl XXXV Task Force.

"There are a lot of rooms. It's just a matter of finding them," he said.

Bowl organizers doubt many people will rely on home rentals. Super Bowl guests stay an average of four nights, not a week or more.

"Why do you need a home? You just need a place to lay your head," said Norwood Smith, vice president of sales for the Tampa Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau, which made the bid to land the game.

History shows the Olympics and national golf tournaments generate more demand, although even those events aren't a sure thing. Many homeowners came up empty during the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, and Olympic officials in Salt Lake City aren't sure what to expect in 2002.

Homeowners hoping for deep-pocketed corporate tenants may be disappointed. The NFL staff, sponsors and media are already booked in downtown Tampa hotels, and more rooms could open up closer to the game.

For the average fan, getting a room will be tough, but not impossible. As of last week, rooms were still available in St. Petersburg and Clearwater, and east of Tampa in Lakeland, Winter Haven or Orlando, according to the bowl committee's fan housing Web site. Most require a four-night minimum.

"I think the odds are strong that you could get a room a week before the Super Bowl," Smith said. "Will it be a half-mile from the stadium? Probably not."

Close proximity to the stadium is a big selling point for many people trying to rent out their homes.

Lisa DeMego listed her three-bedroom condo in Carrollwood on the chance someone would want easy access to the stadium and the airport. The prospect of making $2,000 a day outweighed her fears about guests ruining her place.

"I don't think people are here to have an all-out bash," she said. "I think people are here to go to the Super Bowl."

DeMego is among about 100 people who hope to lease their properties through Event Accommodations, the online rental resource service.

The Seattle-based company charges $250 to take pictures of your home, write a description and post the two on their Web site. The company placed pink signs along streets seeking homes, and it plans to advertise for renters in national newspapers as kickoff nears.

The company modeled its service after those used in Sydney for the Olympics. Sales officials hope about 65 percent of the homes will get rented.

"It's an opportunity that no one should pass up," said Sanzone, the sales manager. "It's a great opportunity to cover your expenses from the holidays and make some extra money."

Homeowners select the renters and set the rates. They can offer maid service or even transportation. They also can choose to stay in their homes, though most prefer to leave. Everything is negotiable.

"I'm hoping that most of the people who are coming through are going to be corporate people and they don't care about the money," said David Forney, who posted his 1928 Old Seminole Heights bungalow.

ReservationsDirect Inc. of Dunedin has about 500 properties on its Web sites. They range from a Spanish Mediterranean home in Culbreath Isles for $20,000 a week to a three-bedroom vacation home in Oldsmar for $2,000.

Will they get takers? It's too soon to tell, said officials at both companies. Most offers probably won't come in until after the holidays, when people start thinking about the game.

Super Bowl officials have received many calls from people interested in renting out their properties, but few from prospective tenants. Most people want a hotel with room service, not a home, Sigmon, the director of operations, said.

Others prefer a beachfront condo.

Travel Resort Services in Madeira Beach has booked about three-quarters of its seasonal rentals for the Super Bowl and expects to sell out in the coming weeks, said Steven Rodriguez, operations director. A two-bedroom unit on the beach goes for $2,000 a week, up from the regular price of $1,350.

Rodriguez has fielded several calls from would-be landlords but isn't taking new clients for just Super Bowl week. He cautions people about doing it on their own if they don't know the rental rules.

Homeowners must pay a 5 percent tourist development tax and a 6.75 percent state sales tax on any rent money collected. Violators are subject to fines, although enforcement is based on the honor system.

Hillsborough County Tax Collector Doug Belden sent out an announcement last week reminding people about the tax, just in case a lot of homes are rented.

"We don't know how widespread it's going to be," said Preston Trigg, Belden's director of administration. "Quite frankly, we don't expect much of a bump from this."

Many homeowners have no idea whether they will get tenants. Most don't care. If they find a good tenant willing to pay top dollar, then great. If they don't, then they'll stay home.

James Mergens thought he'd take a chance on his Beach Park home -- 1,800 square feet, three bedrooms, two baths, a deck and a view of Tampa Bay from the backyard -- mostly because he's tearing it down and rebuilding in February. Unlike most people, he doesn't care if his place gets dirty or even destroyed.

"I thought it was plausible," he said. "I figured for (a cost of) $250 . . . it was worth a shot."

To boost his odds, he lowered the price to $6,000 a week or $1,000 a day. That's a deal compared with others.

"I think a lot of people are trying to hit the lottery," he said.

To book a hotel room or find a rental property, go to:

www.superbowlxxxv.org

www.eventaccommodations.com

www.superbowlrentalchoices.com

www.sportsaccommodations.com

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