Super Bowl madness overruns Tampa on big day
Updated: Sunday January 28, 2001 8:38 PM
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Under clear blue skies, hundreds of thousands of spectators converged onto Super Bowl XXXV on Sunday for the biggest football party of the year.
With excitement of the championship game building minute by minute, neither sky-high ticket prices nor traffic jams hindered the celebration in the hours before the New York Giants took on the Baltimore Ravens at 6:25 p.m. EST.
The morning air was thick with smoke from tailgate barbecues as the crowd grew, including thousands who didn't have tickets for the game but wanted to be in the center of the frenzied celebrations anyway.
They included Tom Januska of San Diego, who planned to use $500 he borrowed from his infant son's college fund to buy a ticket Sunday to his 12th Super Bowl game. He said he was confident he'd be inside the stadium by the time the game began.
Januska, a Redskins fan, said scalpers were charging about $2,800 for seats at the top of Raymond James Stadium, but he was willing to search all day for a better seat or a better deal.
"These are people who are out to burn anybody they can," he said. "What I'm looking for is some businessmen who have an extra ticket they are looking to get rid of. It's beer and food money for them and they're usually good seats."
The Salvation Army set up pavilions to hand out NFL-funded food and drinks to stadium security and volunteers.
"It's just crazy," said Kevin Smith, the Salvation Army's emergency disaster services director for Florida. "They're just beat. They are very worn down."
Incidents on the day of the Super Bowl and at overnight parties were at a minimum, police said.
Tampa Police spokesman Joe Durkin said about two dozen people were arrested during the city's annual Gasparilla festival that drew 750,000 people into downtown Saturday. Most of those arrested were for minor battery charges, disorderly conduct or drugs.
Three men from Atlanta were arrested on grand theft and fraud charges after being accused of taking $4,800 from two Maryland men trying to buy Super Bowl tickets, Durkin said.
The men sold the fans bogus Super Bowl tickets that actually were for the NFL Experience, the football-themed amusement park set up next to the stadium that costs $15 to enter.
Durkin said one of the men arrested was wanted by police in Georgia for a similar scam at last year's Super Bowl in Atlanta.
Free enterprise, as well as football, ruled the day.
Sandra Sierra stood outside her small business across the street from the stadium waving fans to park on her property for $100.
"People laugh at me when I tell them $100, but that's what everyone around here is charging," Sierra said. "I've already got 10 people signed up to park here and four or five have already come in this morning."
She said she needs to charge the high parking rates because the big game caused her cruise reservation service and maid service to lose money. Her maids couldn't get to the property to get their cleaning supplies for a week, she said.
"The money we're making for parking these people will not make up for the losses this week in business," she said. "I'll be glad when it's over."
One of her customers was Giants fan Charles McGuire, 22, who was tailgating with a college friend. The two bought tickets from a broker for $2,862.
"I cannot give my name," McGuire's friend said, "because my dad will kill me if he knows how much I spent on my ticket."
Just across the street from the stadium, Punta Gorda restaurant owner Diane Caputo and her 18 family members and their friends were putting on a feast to rival the fanciest sky box spread inside. On the menu: bacon-wrapped filet mignon, pasta, antipasto and live Maine lobsters.
A few hundred feet away, nine community college students from Fort Myers transported their living room to a dirt lot. In a rented panel truck with a generator, they set up a satellite dish and a 58-inch television set that they watched from a worn leather couch.
"This is the next best thing to having a ticket," Clint Gaither said.