Party all the time
Super Bowl week means parties galore for host city
The city, hosting the NFL's premier event for the third time, is ready to show the world a good time.
From the extravagant commissioner's party for a select group of 5,000 to a charity gathering that bills itself as "The Super Bowl Party With A Purpose," there will be plenty of opportunities to mingle with players, celebrities and other VIPs.
The city's usual adult entertainment and Ybor City nightlife scenes will be augmented by shindigs hosted by megastars like Denzel Washington, Magic Johnson, Roy Jones, Jr. and Evander Holyfield.
Ricky Martin will perform at a party in an airplane hangar at MacDill Air Force Base and indoor and outdoor concerts throughout the area will feature artists such as B.B. King, REO Speedwagon, Styx, Dr. John, David Sanborn, Roberta Flack, Baja Men and Village People.
The NFL Players Party, with a four-night schedule making it the second-largest sanctioned event during Super Bowl weekend, will provide fans a chance to mix with current and former players and even win game tickets.
Magic Johnson's Player Paradise at the posh Florida Aquarium will begin an hour before the game and last well into the night at a cost ranging from $25 to $50.
But the slate of parties -- far more extensive than when Tampa was host in 1984 and 1991, when the commissioner's bash and others were canceled because of the Persian Gulf War -- is not entirely about fun.
A masquerade event, the brainchild of Damien Robinson and Chidi Ahanotu of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will raise money for underprivileged children with guests paying $60 to $150 for admission and an additional $10 for a mask.
Taste of the NFL X, promoted as a party with a purpose, has raised $2.6 million donated to hunger relief agencies in league cities over the past nine years.
Chefs representing each NFL franchise will be paired with a current or former player representing teams at 32 different food and wine stations. Organizers, who began the event when the game was played in Minneapolis in 1992, anticipate a 10th consecutive sellout of about 3,000 participants.
The cost: $400 per person or $6,000 for a corporate table for 10.
"We raised $655,000 in Atlanta last year," event director James B. Little said. "Our goal always is to raise more than the year before, and we're on target to do that again."
Among the former players helping this year are Jim Marshall, Gino Cappelletti, Bobby Bell, Dick Anderson, Tommy Nobis and Earl Morrall.
Ravens kicker Matt Stover was among the current players scheduled to participate. But with Baltimore still playing, director of player development Earnest Byner will stand in for the AFC champions.
Little attended the first Taste of the NFL and returned five years later as director. He has watched the event blossom -- not so much in numbers of guests as the participants' commitment to a good cause.
Many may view the Super Bowl as just a game. But Little said its influence is immeasurable.
"We're very fortunate the NFL includes us as a sanctioned event. It's a powerful platform," he said. "People come and have a good time. But at the same time, it creates an awareness that there is a real need."