For Tampa, game also Olympian effort

City's bid with Orlando for 2012 Summer Games opposes Baltimore-Wash.

January 28, 2001|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

TAMPA, Fla. - Baltimore residents and elected officials have had another competitor in town the past week besides the New York Giants - their host.

Tampa is linchpin for Florida's 2012 Olympic bid, which is viewed as one of the chief rivals to the Washington-Baltimore area's attempt to be the U.S. candidate to play host to the Summer Games.

Florida officials - who have been preparing to land the 2012 Olympics for almost five years - view Super Bowl XXXV as one of their best opportunities to showcase Tampa as the U.S. city best prepared to hold the Games.

"When you put it on paper, I don't think there is anyone who can still compete with us," said Tampa Mayor Dick A. Greco. "Who else will be able to handle eight Super Bowls a day for 16 days?"

Tampa officials are using the Super Bowl to lobby corporate executives and the media to get them behind the bid and help squelch the challenge posed by the Washington-Baltimore, Dallas and New York bids. Several United States Olympic Committee members are also in Tampa this week, officials said, but not on official business.

"We kind of view it as Super Bowl 2012," said Stuart Rogel, president of the Tampa Bay Partnership, a regional coalition of businesses. "We are setting the stage. We see this as a key component to our Olympic bid."

Dan Knise, president of the Washington-Baltimore 2012 Regional Coalition, agreed the Super Bowl gives Tampa exposure, but was disheartened by Greco's "us-vs.-them" comments.

"Hosting the Super Bowl is a chance for them to showcase their city," Knise said. "But we actually think having a team in the Super Bowl is a great for us, too."

Playing host to major televised sports events, as Baltimore did with the Army-Navy Game last month, is considered a dry run for holding the Olympics, which takes hundreds of millions of dollars and years of preparations.

A survey in September found that Americans overwhelmingly believe that Tampa-Orlando, the two main cities that make up the Florida bid, should play host to the 2012 Olympics.

That area was favored by 20 percent of the 1,000 surveyed adult Americans, with Washington-Baltimore and New York tied for second with 8 percent each.

But Florida officials said they consider Washington-Baltimore and Dallas to be their stiffest opponents compared with the other U.S. cities that have filed bids with the U.S. Olympic Committee - New York, Houston, San Francisco, Cincinnati and Los Angeles.

"There is no way Florida can match up to Baltimore-Washington for the historical and cultural attractions they offer," said Ed Turanchik, president and CEO of Florida 2012 bid committee. "But they can never match us for the entertainment, environmental and recreational attractions. Both are great bids, but there are differences and that is what makes this competition fun."

While both regions have pursued a slightly different strategy to win their bids, Turanchik said there are similarities that make both bids strong contenders.

Baltimore and Washington have the National Mall and the Inner Harbor, but Florida has Walt Disney World and hundreds of miles of shoreline.

Baltimore and Washington have just won approval from the U.S. Transportation Department to continue studying a high-speed magnetic levitation (MAGLEV) train to connect the cities, which would supplement existing MARC and Amtrak service. Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment in November to require a statewide intercity rail system that will shuttle people from Tampa to Orlando in 30 minutes.

Maryland and Washington boast 120 major indoor and outdoor athletic facilities and three international airports, while Florida has 20 major convention and professional sports facilities and two international airports.

Both Washington and Orlando are considered major tourist destinations.

Baltimore, Washington and Tampa are making aggressive pushes to continue waterfront development. But Tampa officials believe they can edge out Baltimore officials on several fronts, including hotel ability, government commitment and profitability.

The Tampa-to-Orlando corridor boasts 158,000 hotel and motel rooms, and that number is expected to grow to 200,000 by 2012. The Baltimore-Washington metropolitan region will have 105,000 hotel and motel rooms by 2012, which Knise calls "more than sufficient to meet the Olympic needs."

Turanchik also said construction costs in Florida, which is a right-to-work state, are about a third lower than in the mid-Atlantic.

The Florida legislature also recently approved a $175 million continent fund to back up the bid - the largest government guarantee of an Olympic bid in U.S. history, Turanchik said.

Baltimore-Washington is still looking at different guarantee options, Knise said.

Turanchik issued a warning to Maryland and Washington officials considering loan guarantees.

"This is going to separate the men from the boys," Turanchik said. "If you don't do that, you are going to lose."

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