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The Tampa Bay community has earned a stellar reputation for its volunteer leadership, which has consistently played vital roles in securing and hosting major sporting events. In his monthly column, Joey Johnston takes a look back at how Tampa Bay’s big ideas earned its first big game, Super Bowl XVIII in 1984. We’ll provide information for those interested in becoming a local ambassador when Tampa welcomes football fans in January. Get a glimpse of the incredible renovations recently unveiled to fans at Raymond James Stadium. Finally, Joe Collier, Chair of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, rounds things out in this month’s Six Points feature.

No one did a double-take in 2013 when Tampa Bay was awarded the third College Football Playoff National Championship (before the first one was even played). And everyone expects a great occasion on January 9 when college football’s premier event heads to Raymond James Stadium for the culmination of a massive weekend that will showcase the entire community. College football’s biggest moment in Tampa? It’s no surprise. It fits nicely. The Super Bowl in Tampa? Thirty-three years ago, there were lots of skeptics. During the run-up to Super Bowl XVIII at the old Tampa Stadium, some said the town was too small. It didn’t have the experience, infrastructure or panache to pull off the country’s largest sporting event. Tampa’s effort not only thrived, said former NFL senior vice president of special events Jim Steeg, it forever raised the bar for all other cities. CONTINUED ON PAGE 6


“It was a great success. The Tampa Bay area really does a superb job in all facets when it hosts sporting events. I think everyone from the fans to the athletes to the coaches were very pleased with how it turned out and we’re delighted to be coming back in 2019.’’



PLAYOFF GREEN SUSTAINABILITY INITIATIVE TO BENEFIT THE TAMPA BAY COMMUNITY While the top teams in the nation vie for the College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy on the field, off the field the Tampa Bay community will be the big winners, thanks to the event’s dedication to going green. The College Football Playoff has partnered with the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, Brazilian steel manufacturer, Gerdau, and a number of local organizations for its sustainability initiative, Playoff Green. The program aims to set the benchmark for the green footprint created by large-scale events while making a meaningful impact regarding waste, recycling and sustainability in the Tampa Bay area. Five major project areas have been identified as focal points during the final weekend of the college football season: •

Solid waste and recycling - will divert waste through composting, recycling and reuse of event materials at College Football Playoff and Championship Campus venues

Prepared food recovery - in partnership with Feeding Tampa Bay, will recover and donate unserved food from event venues

Material recovery - will reuse and repurpose event materials including decor, office supplies and building supplies for donation to Tampa Bay nonprofit organizations

Renewable energy - includes sourcing renewable energy certificates equivalent to the electricity used at Raymond James Stadium and other event venues during championship events

The Playoff Green Campus Challenge - will give 10 local schools an opportunity to “green” their campus and earn funds for school supplies and urban forestry projects CLICK TO READ

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED FOR TAMPA BAY’S COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP HOST EFFORT Two thousand enthusiastic individuals are needed to serve as ambassadors for the fan events surrounding the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship. Signature College Football Playoff fan events needing volunteer support include Playoff Fan Central at the Tampa Convention Center, AT&T Playoff Playlist Live! at Curtis Hixon Park, and the Extra Yard for Teachers 5K at Amalie Arena. Volunteer responsibilities include transportation and courtesy car drivers, as well as greeters at hotels, airports and other key locations. Shifts range from 3.5 to 4 hours. Volunteers must register for a minimum of two shifts throughout the weekend, and each shift worked does not have to be for the same event. Volunteers will be required to attend a mandatory training session. Sessions have been scheduled for Thursday, December 15, from 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. and Saturday, December 17, from 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Training will include a general overview of the program and will be followed by breakout sessions with volunteer captains. Some age restrictions apply. All volunteers must be at least 18 years or older, complete an application and are subject to a background check.



SixPoints JoeCollier with

What did you learn by going to the game last year in Glendale, Arizona?

The amount of work required to coordinate the event, choreograph multiple venues and streamline communication between so many organizations and people. I was impressed by the amount of nongame opportunities for entertainment, including a variety of fan events, concerts and atmosphere. As a hotel executive, how important is the lodging aspect for visiting teams and fans in bidding for such a high-profile event as the College Football Playoff National Championship?

We have a tight and well-organized Hotel Association in Hillsborough County and an experienced leader in Bob Morrison. You can’t host these events without hotels stepping up, holding the room blocks, while delivering good service and great experiences. Our hoteliers get it and play ball. What kind of extra amenities will hoteliers offer fans visiting the Tampa Bay area for the College Football Playoff National Championship?

All of the hotels will do their own special things based on their offerings. I can speak for the Epicurean which will tie in several special food and drink themes for the event, and specifically based on the geography of the teams arriving. We may try to do an Iron Chef challenge with team mascots helping, if available.



What do you want visiting fans to say about Tampa upon their return home from the College Football Playoff National Championship?

What a great town, friendly people, great hotels and quality atmosphere. I want to move there with my Fortune 100 company!

The Tampa Bay Sports Commission brings high-profile amateur, collegiate and professional sports events to the area. What are some of the best qualities of each?

The big national events create a ton of excitement and certainly receive the media attention — which is great for our city. The events are also economic wins both in terms of real dollars spent during the event, as well as long-term credibility for other events. They show that we know how to do them well. The amateur events may not get as much attention, but they are our bread and butter taking place practically every week. Those events pay the bills on an on-going basis. It is fun to see families here to see their young one compete and enjoy our city. As a Florida State alumni, what is your most memorable Seminole athletics moment from when you were a student in Tallahassee?

A bunch of us took a road trip to see FSU play Ohio State in their stadium. We actually had to sneak in the game because we ran out of money and didn’t have tickets. We picked up some boxes and marched into the stadium with the Marching Chiefs band. FSU won the game, but the best part was that somehow we got on TV and didn’t know it. My parents had taped the game and when I went home for Thanksgiving they showed the clip of us running around the Ohio State track smashing buckeyes with our feet. EXTRA POINT If you were the head coach of a team that just scored a touchdown with seconds left in the fourth to pull within one point – do you send in the kicker for the extra point and go to overtime, or do you go for two?

I would have to look in my players’ eyes to make that decision and to see if they need a breath. Typically I am a go-for-the-glory type of person. I am like the guy from Tin Cup when I play golf. I would rather be awesome on one shot than mediocre all day. That’s why I am a lousy golfer, but I have fun.


TASTE OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP - TICKETS AVAILABLE NOW! The country’s best chefs, including local favorites, will meet at the Florida Aquarium for Taste of the Championship. The event benefits the College Football Foundation. An array of delicacies will be served by Tampa Bay’s top restaurants including: 717 South, Ava, Bern’s Steak House, Boca Kitchen Bar, Cigar City BrewPub, The Columbia Restaurant, Datz, Fodder & Shine, Goody Goody, Haven, Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Mise en Place, Parkshore Grill, The Refinery, Roux and Ulele. Check out our exclusive video with Fodder & Shine chef Greg Baker, and learn more about how restaurants and events like the College Football Playoff can come together to shape a community. Click here to learn more about the College Football Playoff Foundation. CLICK TO VIEW VIDEO

LAST CHANCE FOR EXTRA YARD 5K EARLY REGISTRATION DISCOUNT Time is running out for your chance to sign up for the Extra Yard 5K for only $25. The event, being held at Amalie Arena on Sunday, January 8, will benefit the College Football Playoff Foundation’s primary initiative, Extra Yard for Teachers. The early registration discount is available through November 1 and includes chip timing, a race t-shirt (limited to the first 1,000 registrants), a commemorative race bib, a finisher’s medal, one (1) ticket to Playoff Fan Central and one (1) entry into a drawing to win two (2) tickets to the College Football Playoff National Championship. CLICK TO REGISTER

JANUARY 9, 2017 RAYMOND JAMES STADIUM TAMPABAY2017.COM COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF RANKINGS We’re less than one month away from the release of College Football Playoff Rankings. The Selection Committee will issue its first rankings Tuesday, November 1, with subsequent rankings taking place the next five weeks. Stay up-to-date on your favorite team by visiting


32 YEARS AGO, TAMPA BAY BEGAN BUILDING ITS BIG GAME REPUTATION - CONTINUED FROM PAGE 2 Tampa introduced innovations that are still in place, such as a Super Host Committee and corporate tent village. According to Steeg, Tampa offered hospitality like never seen before. “When I think of the folks in Tampa and the commitment they have to putting on a first-class event, I get a big smile on my face,’’ Steeg said. Tampa has hosted four Super Bowls and will bid for a fifth. “When you host four Super Bowls,’’ said College Football Playoff chief operating officer Michael Kelly, “your community is not a fluke.’’ Tampa organizers of the upcoming national championship game can stand on the shoulders of civic giants such as Leonard and George Levy, Shirley Ryals, Chuck Smith, Walter Baldwin, Barbara Casey, Joe Zalupski and Rick Nafe — when the city hosted its first Super Bowl on January 22, 1984. “That first Super Bowl we hosted opened the door for us,’’ said Leonard Levy, a businessman who chaired Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl Task Force. “We built on that momentum. Great things have happened ever since.’’ Rick Nafe, a vice president with the Tampa Bay Rays who served as executive director of the Tampa Sports Authority, said the dividends of Tampa’s first Super Bowl effort are still being felt today. “Tampa has been accused of being a small town that thinks big,’’ Nafe said. “But there’s a blessing in the supposedly small-town feel that we have. I’ve yet to see another area with our kind of enthusiasm and energy when it comes to putting on events.’’ Tampa’s big-event dreams actually began on April 24, 1974. Inside suite 404 at New York’s Drake Hotel, Commissioner Pete Rozelle announced, “The National Football League voted today to expand to Tampa, Florida.’’ Tampa’s contingent of civic leaders gasped, did a few fist-pumps, even shed a few tears. Levy, who was head of Tampa’s NFL Franchise Task Force, didn’t miss a beat. “How do we get the Super Bowl?’’ Levy said. Some league observers might have gasped at the mere thought of that. Tampa remained resolute, winning the 1984 game during the 1981 NFL Meetings. Suddenly, it was real. In the previous months, Levy remembers speaking to Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, head of the NFL expansion committee and a great friend to Tampa.


“Dan said, ‘Leonard, you guys can’t handle the Super Bowl,’” Levy said. “And I said, ‘Oh yes we can.’ He thought about it for a while, and said, ‘You know what? You’ve done everything you said you would in building an NFL team (the Buccaneers), so there’s no reason to think you can’t do this, too.’ We had earned that kind of credibility. They believed in us.” Tampa built support within NFL ownership. Then it built the Downtown Hyatt Hotel, a necessity to stage the big game. “We had studied other cities and found that in places like Los Angeles, the Super Bowl was just another event,’’ Levy said. “Sometimes, people were gouged by jacked-up rates and prices. We determined that would not happen in Tampa.’’ Ninety-five percent of Tampa’s hoteliers signed pledges that they wouldn’t charge exorbitant rates. The Super Bowl Host Committee — now standard fare — was formed so visitors could be helped from start to finish. Tampa International Airport was filled with greeters. Cab drivers took customer service classes. If a visitor looked confused or lost, volunteers quickly stepped up. Because Tampa didn’t have enough hotel space for game-day corporate parties, Levy said the Task Force conceived of a tent village at Tampa Stadium. Corporate parties were moved to the game site, another innovation that quickly became standard at all major events. “We did it out of necessity and it turned out to be a great thing that everybody started doing,’’ Levy said. “And when people saw our Super Bowl Host Committee, well, that became a must-do as well.’’ Everything lived up to the city’s promotional mantra: If they love us when they leave us, they’ll be back. “I remember everyone working on the game having such a great attitude and great enthusiasm,’’ Nafe said. “I really think that set us apart and showed the NFL we could handle anything.’’ History will show that the black-clad Los Angeles Raiders captured Super Bowl XVIIII. It was the rushing of Marcus Allen, the game’s Most Valuable Player. It was a swarming defense that neutralized the Washington Redskins, who had scored a then-NFL record 541 points in the regular season. But the real winner? Clearly, it was the Tampa Bay area. It staged a Super Bowl with imagination, resourcefulness, style and a feel-good vibe that positioned the area as a suitable big-event host for years to come. The College Football Playoff National Championship is the latest example of that. Joey Johnston, a sports journalist with the Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times for more than three decades, has covered all of the Tampa Bay area’s major sporting events and can’t wait to witness the College Football National Championship game on Jan. 9 at Raymond James Stadium.



Touchdown Tampa Bay: The October Edition of College Football Playoff's #TampaBay2017 E-Newsletter