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Clearwater plans to draw Super Bowl crowd

The city hopes to have two NFL-sanctioned concerts at Coachman Park, and Jazz Holiday is lining up a major act.

By MAUREEN BYRNE

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 8, 2000


CLEARWATER -- The city hopes to be part of the game plan for Super Bowl XXXV by offering two weekends of concerts before the big game.

Clearwater will kick off an eight-day series of events leading to the Jan. 28 Super Bowl in Tampa with a two-day concert at Coachman Park Jan. 20 and 21. The concert will feature one day of classic rock musicians and another day of country music stars, including Charlie Daniels.

Then the city will play host to Clearwater Super Celebration, a two-day music festival in Coachman Park Jan. 26 and 27 featuring nationally known acts. The championship football game, which organizers say will draw 100,000 visitors to the area, will be at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

Terry Schmidt, Clearwater's special-events director, said the city has submitted paperwork to a local task force that will decide which events will be authorized as sanctioned events of Super Bowl XXXV.

"The (Clearwater) events are going to happen either way," Schmidt said. But it would be nice to have the NFL's stamp of approval, he added.

The city joins 50 other organizations that met the July 30 application deadline for the NFL sanction. "We're real excited," said Krista Soroka, director of special events and public relations for Tampa Bay Super Bowl Task Force XXXV. "We certainly do want a number of different cultural events to showcase the area."

Jim Steeg, vice president of special events for the NFL, said there is no set number of sanctioned events. "We've had varying numbers over the years," he said, adding there were 107 official NFL events for Super Bowl XXX in 1996.

This week, a task force committee will begin reviewing each application to make sure all the requirements have been met. Criteria include carrying insurance, having a charity benefit from ticketed events, using minority-owned caterers or businesses and avoiding sponsor conflicts.

Based on advice from the committee, the NFL will give the ultimate approval for the sanctioning of events, Steeg said. Clearwater and other event organizers will find out whether they have been approved sometime in September, he said.

Schmidt said he is confident the NFL will approve the application, because the task force urged the city to apply for the sanction. "I don't believe we'll have any problem," he said.

Neither does Steeg.

"I don't think there is going to be any problem with Clearwater," he said. "We're behind it because we really want to do something there to make sure there is something in Pinellas."

So what does the NFL sanction really mean?

Prestige, more than anything, Schmidt said. And opportunities to have limited use of the official task force logo for marketing programs, to have an entry on the official Super Bowl Web site and to have a listing in 150,000 task force visitor guides.

Clearwater Jazz Holiday also plans to get in on the action on Super Bowl weekend by participating in the Clearwater Super Celebration. Jazz Holiday executive director Karen Vann said she is working with cable channel BET on Jazz to sponsor some "major" musicians at the park Jan. 27. She said she doesn't know whether there will be an admission fee.

Vann said she won't release the potential lineup yet since no contracts have been signed. Schmidt said the city was working on landing a big-name pop star for its Jan. 26 concert , but it also wouldn't say who was being considered.

"We're potentially looking at groups that go to the Ice Palace and cost $40," Schmidt said. "We're looking at charging $15.

Jazz Holiday organizers will face some competition on the day of their concert. Tampa's annual Gasparilla celebration, a daylong event featuring a mock pirate invasion, is scheduled for the same day.

Vann said she isn't worried about the scheduling conflict. "We're not attracting the same crowd," she said. "I thing jazz and Gasparilla are two different ball games."

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