Tampa News

Delta Reinstating Interstate Flights

March 2009

Delta Airlines has announced that beginning on April 1, they will reinstate flights from the capital city of Tallahassee to airports in Orlando, Tampa, and Fort Lauderdale, backed up by a consortium of the city of Tallahassee, Leon County and the state of Florida with a $1.5 million stop-loss guarantee. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, the money will only be paid if Delta fails to garner $11.5 million per year on the newly reinstated flights.


Last year, when fuel prices were at their peak, Delta scrubbed most flights to from smaller regional airports. In April, however, they will be offering two flights per weekday and one on Saturday and Sunday for each of the three destinations. The service will be run by subsidiary Mesaba Airlines.


The state hopes that the funds they are providing for the flights will help boost tourism in three of Florida's most popular tourist destinations. The state has seen a marked drop in tourism with the downturn in the economy, making it a good time to visit as vacation deals are plentiful.



Tampa to Host Valentines for Veterans Concert

February 2009

Later this week, Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV), a non-profit organization that works "to physically and psychologically rehabilitate veterans through programs and events that foster active hands and minds, and increase self worth and confidence," will co-sponsor four "Valentines for Veterans Concerts" with local Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospitals, including one that will take place at the Florida Fairgrounds in Tampa.

The Tampa event will occur on Thursday, Feb. 12th and will include performances by The Spinners and Little Anthony and the Imperials. The organization that sponsors the concerts expects the Tampa event to draw the most veterans and their families of all four concerts; some 5,000 in all are slated to attend. The other concerts will be held in Charleston, South Carolina; Prescott, Arizona; and in Cleveland, Ohio at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


The idea for the Valentines for Veterans concerts was conceived in 2007, according to a press release issued by HHV. They were initiated as part of "No Greater Love Week", a week-long event that was first organized in 1978 and included tributes to and celebrations for many of the United States' Vietnam veterans.


Tampa to Host Equestrian Event

February 2009

The Bob Thomas Equestrian Center at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa will be the site of the majority of the events that make up the 2009 Tampa Equestrian Festival, beginning on March 18 and continuing through April 4.

The event, which is sponsored by Stadium Jumping Inc., will also include the $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational, touted as the nation's premier outdoor show jumping event, according to Equestrian News. The American Invitation will be held under the lights at Raymond James Stadium on the last evening of the festival.


The American Invitational event will include winners from last year's event as well as three members from the U.S. Olympic Gold Medal show jumping team. Eric Lamaze, Olympic individual gold medalist from Canada, will also be competing. Additional competitors will be chosen from the winners of other events held during the three-week festival.


Riders will also be competing for a spot on the 2009 Rolex FEI World Cup Finals, which will be held in Las Vegas in late April.


Water Lovers Readying for Central Florida Boat Show

Despite the tough economic times and the worst recreational marine industry downturn in 30 years, organizers of the annual Central Florida Boat Show plan to go ahead with the event, which is scheduled to take place from February 19 - 22 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.

In a recent press release, organizers of the 42nd annual event note that in challenging economic times, dealers of boats and other marine equipment need to go directly to the place where they'll find the most prospects. The annual boat show, which normally draws thousands, is an ideal locale for finding the most promising customers.

According to the release, this year's Central Florida Boat Show will feature hundreds of 2009-model-year boats of all sizes from more than 100 different manufacturers. Vessels on display include power boats, sailboats, pontoons, fishing boats, canoes, and more. Dozens of marine accessories displays will also be part of the show and organizers offer fun and educational family events and activities during the course of the show as well.


Tampa Mall Gets $10 Million Facelift

January 2009

The 35-year-old University Mall in Tampa has just finished undergoing major renovations, a process which took much of last year, saving the mall from closing or converting to office space, a fate which has befallen a number of other malls in the area.


According to an article in Real Estate Florida, the mall has fought a hard fight over the last several years, having lost three anchor stores and many other smaller retail shops within the mall.


Located along Fowler Avenue east of Interstate 275 near the busy University of South Florida campus, University Mall has seen a handful of changes in its lifetime but nothing like the ones the new mall owner has put into place this year in order to give the retail center a more modern, customer-friendly look and feel.

"Mall shoppers' wants, needs and expectations are always evolving based on the demands of their daily life," Tom Locke, the mall's general manager told Real Estate Florida. "We continue to strive to fulfill those."

Improvements include new V-shaped main entrances, "Florida-style" landscaping, monochromatic color palates, a revamped food court, tile mosaics, a lounge area, a play area for small children, and a WiFi terrace with comfortable seating and free internet service.



Super Bowl Gospel Celebration to Proceed Big Game

January 2009

The 10th Anniversary Super Bowl Gospel Celebration will be held at the SunDome on the University of South Florida's campus on Friday night, Jan. 30th, two days before the Super Bowl is played at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium.

The only NFL-sanctioned gospel event for Super Bowl Weekend, the celebration features the NFL Players All-Star Choir, featuring more than 40 football players and a number of other long-time supporters, including retired players and officials. Dubbed "A Decade of Inspiration", the event also brings top gospel artists to the area.


This is one of the few family-oriented, non-alcoholic events scheduled the weekend of the game. Organized because the NFL players were seeking an inspirational-type event before the big game, the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration now features inspirational messages present by NFL players as well as the musicians and others on hand for the event.


Tickets are available in advance from Ticketmaster and range in price from $25 to $95.



Lights On Tampa Exhibit Begins

As part of a celebration that will coincide with both the Gasparilla Festival and the arriving of Super Bowl fans to the Tampa Bay area, the city will begin its gala Lights On Tampa exhibit on Saturday, Jan. 10.


According to organizers, the event will turn local buildings into works of art and will feature five large-scale installations throughout the city, including a ring of mirrored, lighted balls that will illuminate the Tampa Convention Center, the Dick Greco Transportation Center, Riverwalk and University of South Florida Park.


In addition, the windows of the former Tampa Bay History Center will feature rolling scrolls of images of the bay, displayed on a large LED screen. Other smaller installations will be located throughout the downtown area and a giant "mood ring" will be on display at Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park along the Riverwalk. The lights can be viewed from 5:30 pm until midnight through February 1. 


The Tampa Tribune reports that the Lights On Tampa exhibition cost a total of about $800,000, with the city picking up nearly half of the cost. The remainder was covered by private donations and various arts-related grants.

This event echoes a similar one that took place around the city in 2006 and features the work of several nationally-known artists including a few who grew up in the Tampa Bay area.



MOSI to Host Acclaimed Body Worlds Exhibit

December 2008

Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry will be playing host early next year to Gunther von Hagen's fascinating and controversial Body Worlds exhibit. The exhibit, which has drawn criticism from protestors around the world because of questions about where the bodies originated, will open on January 22 and continue until the end of June.


"Gunther von Hagens has a great reputation," MOSI spokeswoman Shani Jefferson said in a recent press release. "People know he is going to give them nothing but the best. He is the creator of this anatomical exhibit and innovator of this process."


"These are real, donor bodies, who have come into his institution" in Germany, she added, referring to the rumors that von Hagens uses the bodies of destitute individuals from various Asian countries. "He has 8,900 registered donors."


Von Hagens enjoys an excellent reputation in the field of anatomy and is considered a top expert in his field. He is responsible for the development of the Plastination process, which he uses in his exhibit. Plastination is the process of encasing and preserving human tissue so that it can be studied or displayed.


This will be the first time the Body Worlds exhibit has come to Florida. Thus far, however, it has landed in 47 cities throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, and estimates say it has been viewed by more than 26 million people worldwide.



New Tampa Bay History Center Nears Completion

November 2008

Finishing touches are being put on Tampa's newest waterfront attraction, the new Tampa Bay History Center, a 3-story, 60,000-square-foot building that will replace the much smaller history center on Franklin Street that has been open since 1989.


The new museum, located on 2.4 acres in the Channelside district, promises to be not only larger but also much more all-encompassing than the current one. Scheduled to open in January 2009, the contemporary-style building will include not only traditional history museum displays featuring photos and artifacts but also exhibits that venture out of the box. Examples include a replica of a 1920s Ybor City cigar store and an exhibit on the history of the port of Tampa, housed inside a shipping container.


Hands-on activities for all ages will also be included, according to the museum's executive director C.J. Roberts. These will include Native American finger weaving, cattle "branding" (no real cows, of course!), and orange crate label design.


The museum will also take a look at the region's future via exhibits dedicated to the history of social change in the area. In addition, visitors will be invited to leave their own thoughts about the future of Tampa.


The new Tampa Bay History Center will also be added to Tampa's list of "green" buildings, hoping to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification once completed.



Tampa Rays Headed to World Series!

October 2008

The Tampa Rays eliminated the 2007 World Series-winning Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Championships on Sunday and – for the first time in the team's history – are headed to the World Series. They'll be playing the National League Division Champion Philadelphia Phillies in a series that begins on Wednesday night at Tropicana Field.


Even Boston's manager had to admit that this year's Rays are something special. "We didn't get as far as we wanted," Boston manager Terry Francona told the reporters who gathered after the game. "We got beat by a very good team. They'll represent the American League very, very well."

Francona wasn't the only one who doubted the Rays. For the past ten years, the team has assumed the bottom position in their division, causing doubt among die-hard fans that they would ever make it this far. The team had never won more than 70 games in any one season and most bets were on the Red Sox, who've made it to three of the last five World Series championships.

"It shows anything is possible," Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said after accepting the championship trophy for his team, which won 97 games this year.



Three Busch Gardens Coasters Receive Golden Ticket Awards

October 2008

Each year, Amusement Today, a major theme-park trade publication, announces what amounts to the Oscars of the amusement park industry, citing various rides, attractions, and parks for such characteristics as "best", "cleanest", or "friendliest". This year, the winners of the "Golden Ticket Awards" were announced in September and three of Busch Garden Tampa's many coasters made it onto the list of the Top 50 Steel Roller Coasters.


Achieving the highest spot on the list was Montu, opened in 1996. This inverted roller coaster has earned similar honors in the past, thrilling riders as their feet hang below the tracks.


Coming in at number 19 is SheiKra, opened in 2005 and featuring a 200-foot, 90-degree drop. This coaster was the nation's first dive coaster, plunging riders into an underground tunnel in additional to tormenting them with an infamous Immelmann Loop. The ride, with its floorless cars, reaches speeds of 70 mph.


Kumba took the 27th spot. Featuring one of the world's largest vertical loops, Kumba provides riders with 3 seconds of absolute weightlessness. In all, this coaster, built in 1993, turns riders upside-down a record seven times.


All three roller coasters were built by the same company - Bollinger & Mabillard of Switzerland.   



Rays Win American League Division Series!

October 2008

After spending ten years being what the New York Times refers to as "the designated doormat for the American League", the Tampa Bay Rays trounced the Chicago White Sox on Monday to win their third game of the American League Division series. The victory advances the team to a match-up against the other Sox - the Boston Red Sox. The winner of that series will determine who wears the American League championship crown and goes on to play the World Series.


It only took four games for the Rays to top the White Sox, with the victory coming at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. It was a bitter loss for the team from the Windy City but a true victory for the Rays, who spent ten of its last eleven years at the bottom of the league.


"It means everything," said center fielder B.J. Upton. "We've been at the bottom of the barrel for so long. And I think there was a point in time where people didn't even know who we were."


"Last year, I thought this place was special because of the environment we had and the people we had," added first baseman Carlos Pena. "Maybe everybody thought I was crazy. To see it materialize, I'm just so grateful."



Rays Make Play-Offs for First Time

September 2008

For the first time in the club's 11 year history, the Tampa Bay Rays are assured a spot in the post-season play-off games.


After 10 long years of what many have described as crushing defeat, the Rays triumphed over the Minnesota Twins this past weekend to secure at least a wild card spot in the American League play-offs. The games will start in a little more than a week.


Saturday's game represented the team's 92nd win of the season. This was a major milestone for the Rays, once known as the Devil Rays, who finished all but one of their first 10 seasons at the bottom of the pack. Last year, they finished next to last in their division.


Some didn't think the Rays would ever get this far, potentially edging out such formidable opponents as the Red Sox and Yankees. Others kept the faith.

"The more doubts you have about this team," the Rays' injured outfielder, Carl Crawford, told Sports Illustrated, "the more that we want to prove otherwise."


"Going through the first six years, like I did, it looked like times were never going to change," Crawford continued. "But we turned it around and kept going, and now things are going a different way. And it doesn't look like it's going to go backward, either."


JetBlue Adds Route from Tampa to Cancun

September 2008

JetBlue Airlines has announced that it will initiate Tampa Bay's only service to Mexico beginning in December, when the airline adds a route from Tampa International to Cancun.


The service will begin on December 18, just before the Christmas holiday rush. Fares from Tampa to Cancun will start at as low as $99 each way. This new route, as well as one that will run from Washington's Dulles Airport to Cancun, makes Jet Blue the second-largest U.S. airline to the Caribbean/Atlantic region, with up to 50 daily flights.


"Cancun - it's so close, yet for the Tampa Bay region, which has long lacked non-stop service to Mexico, it's been so far away," said Jim Fuoco, manager of route planning for JetBlue. "Today we're thrilled to announce our first international routes from Tampa, and provide our customers with more of the low fares and great service they've been asking for. Together with our new weekend service from Washington, we look forward to introducing even more travelers to the beauty and excitement of Cancun this winter."


"We are appreciative that JetBlue is starting this new service to Cancun and I have every confidence that the Tampa Bay Area travelers will show their appreciation by flying to Cancun on JetBlue," added Louis Miller, Tampa International Airport's executive director.



Rays Readying for the World Series

September 2008

With the playoffs just a month and a half away, the first-place Tampa Bay Rays are beginning to think about the details of the post season, especially if they maintain their current spot more than four games in front of the second-place Boston Red Sox.


The Rays are also currently tied for the most games won this season – 77 – and fans are starting to inquire as to tickets for post-season games, notes a story aired on Tampa Bay 10 News.


A spokesperson for the Rays says the franchise will be selling single game seats for the post season should the team get that far. In addition, they're currently accepting deposits for 2009 season tickets. Depositors interested in the 2009 packages will also have the chance to purchase post season ticket packages for this year. Deposits are $150 for the upper deck, $500 for the lower deck.


Most Rays home games have been sold out lately and World Series tickets for Tropicana Field already advertised on Stub Hub are priced anywhere from $600 to $5,000 for a single seat, the story pointed out.



New Scanners Coming to Tampa International

August 2008

Joining ten airports nationwide that already own the state-of-the-art machines, Tampa International Airport (TIA) will be receiving a shipment of four full-body scanners within the next few weeks. Airport officials estimate the machines will be in use at the airport in the next two to three months after employees receive the necessary training to operate them.

The devices, which have caused some controversy at other airports, use radio waves to produce a white-on-black picture of what's below a person's top layers of clothing, including weapons. The technique used, which is called "millimeter wave," makes metal and non-metal objects clearly stand out during the scanning process.

At TIA, the scanners will be used to randomly screen passengers before they reach the regular metal detector, known as "primary" screening. In some airports, the full-body scanners are used for "secondary" screening after someone sets off the metal detector. 

The image of the person being scanned appears on a screen in a private room and the individual's face is obscured during the scanning process, officials explain.

"TSA has taken several steps to protect passengers' privacy," says Shari Koshetz, a spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
Koshetz adds that the scans are safe and do not present a potential health hazard as the waves emitted are weaker than those from a cellular phone.


Lowry Park Zoo to Get Renewable Solar Energy System

August 2008

Tampa Electric, the University of South Florida's Power Center for Utility Explorations (PCUE) and Lowry Park Zoo announced this week that they will be working together to design, build, and test a renewable solar energy system for the zoo.


"The 15-kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) project can generate enough clean energy to power the zoo's Skyfari sky ride and will be connected to the electric grid through the zoo's main power system," explains a press release issued by Tampa Electric. The project will also include a series of educational displays for the zoo's more than one million annual visitors, touting the advantages of solar energy and encouraging its use. The entire project is expected to cost about $575,000.


"Our project seeks to deliver electric power that is not only reliable, but also compatible with a natural environment, in harmony with people and animals," said Alex Domijan, professor at the USF College of Engineering and director of the PCUE


"All of the zoo's exhibits and programs are designed to engage and inspire visitors to treasure the natural world and act wisely on its behalf," added Lex Salisbury, president and CEO of Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo. "This partnership offers a great opportunity for the zoo to lead by example. By developing and testing a renewable solar energy system, we hope to reduce the impact on the environment by conserving conventional power."


Lowry Park Zoo Releases Manatee into Wild

July 2008

Last week, two members of the Manatee Conservation Trust of Trinidad helped release Snitch the Manatee back into the waters at Safety Harbor in Tampa. The two individuals have been interning at the Lowry Park Zoo and were excited to be part of the release.


Lisa Ramkissoon, Secretary of the Trust, and volunteer member Keisha Pakeera, along with other zoo staff, considered the opportunity to set the manatee free a "once in a lifetime experience", notes an article in Trinidad's Newsday newspaper.


Snitch was rescued from Tampa Bay in 2007 after becoming tangled in a crab net, a common occurrence in the bay. It is believed that he was 2 years old at the time of his rescue. The animal was cared for at the zoo's Manatee Hospital and last Friday Dr. David Murphy deemed Snitch healthy enough to be set free.


The Lowry Park Zoo is currently home to 2,000 animals as well as the manatee hospital, a Native Florida Wildlife Center, Asian Gardens, Primate World, Free-Flight Aviaries, Wallaroo Station children's zoo, and Safari Africa. The zoo also hosts an Environmental Education Center for area school children.


Anheuser-Busch Aquired by InBev

July 2008

The Belgium based brewery, InBev, is aquiring Anheuser-Bush for $52-billion cash. This deal creates the world's largest beer maker that will control one-half of the world's beer market.


Anheuser-Busch stockholders will receive $70 in cash per share. Two seats on the company board will be occupied by Anheuser-Busch. This deal originated with what appeared to be a takeover attempt when InBev attempted to replace the Anheuser-Busch board of Directors with their own. The new company will be known as Anheuser-Busch InBev.


InBev, a company with a reputation of ruthless cost cuts, has pledged to keep open all breweries of Anheuser-Busch and keep St Louis as its North American Headquarters. Budweiser will remain the company's flagship beer and the famous Clydesdale horses will remain their symbol.


The sale of Anheuser-Busch includes ten theme parks which include Tampa's Busch Gardens, Adventure Island and Orlando's Seaworld.

It is unknown at this point in time how this sale will affect these parks as InBev will be concentrating on brewing aproximately three-hundred brands of beer. It is a distinct possibility that the parks will be sold. Although it is unlikely in todays economy that another theme-park industry will aquire these parks - it is likely that they will be picked up by private firms.


This deal will end aproximately one-hundred and fifty years of independence by Anheuser-Busch.


Pro Soccer Returning to Tampa

July 2008

After a nine year absence, professional soccer will be returning to Tampa in 2010, reports the Tampa Bay Business Journal.


A new team, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, will play in the First Division of the United Soccer Leagues beginning two years from now. In the meantime, throughout 2009, the franchise will be busy with other activities, including hosting exhibition matches, hiring staff and players, and starting the Tampa Bay Rowdies Youth Academy.


A new privately-funded stadium will be built for the Rowdies, who will play a 28-game season that runs from April through November. The stadium will hold 7,500 fans and will be located in northwest Tampa. An exact location was not announced.


This is the second time around for the Rowdies, who played in various leagues from 1975 to 1993. Tampa Bay was previously the home of another professional soccer team – the Tampa Bay Mutiny.


Owners of the Rowdies franchise will include David Laxner, owner of Bern's Steak House, a Tampa institution since 1956. Other officers will include Andrew Nestor as president and CEO, and Perry Van Der Beck will be the team's technical director and director of community development. Van Der Beck is a former Rowdies team member and was captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic soccer team.



MOSI Offers 4th of July Celebration

June 2008

Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) is offering a series of evening events on July 4th for residents and visitors who want to do a little something different to celebrate the Independence Day holiday.


A spokesperson for the museum, which is the largest science center in the southeastern United States, notes that the events will include dinner "under the stars" inside MOSI's Saunders Planetarium, dancing at "Kids in Charge - The Children's Science Center", a musical performance by the group Spirit of Freedom, and a 360-degree view of Tampa Bay on top of the IMAX Dome Theatre including champagne and a chance to view a spectacular fireworks display.


The festivities begin at 6:30 pm with dinner commencing at 7:30 pm. Reservations are required to join the fun. The cost is $225 per person or $400 per couple. Call (813) 987-6077 by June 30 to reserve a spot.