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Football fans lucky or wealthy enough to get a ticket for Super Bowl XLIII will have a few more choices for overnight accommodations in the Tampa Bay area, some of which will be closer to the stadium than the last three times the title game was staged there.Approximately 2,000 more rooms will be available for the February 2009 game than the last time Tampa hosted the Super Bowl in January 2001, according to Smith Travel Research, which counts approximately 20,132 rooms in Hillsborough County.

Full-service hotel additions in recent years include the 293-room Renaissance International Plaza, a few miles away from Raymond James Stadium, and a 360-unit Embassy Suites hotel in Downtown Tampa. At the same time, several existing hotels have been reflagged of late, including the 323-room InterContinental Tampa, formerly the Wyndham Westshore.

While there are no hotels in the blocks immediately surrounding the stadium, proximity of such accommodations has never been an issue with the National Football League, says Steve Hayes, executive VP of Tampa Bay & Co., the area’s convention and visitors’ bureau. Buses, taxis and limos are available to ferry people to and from the game site and other venues around town where Super Bowl-related events are held.

Corporate sponsors and others requiring larger blocks of hotel rooms prefer to stay farther away from the stadium, whether along the Pinellas County beaches to the west or Orlando theme parks to the east, he adds. “We’re still having to go to Orlando to get rooms, but don’t need as many as we used to,” Hayes says.

Five-star service and resort amenities also aren’t required, since many fans of either team are likely to spend more on a Super Bowl ticket than hotel or restaurant tabs. An undetermined number of NFL fans go to game sites just for the surroundings.

“A lot of our hotel capacity has been limited service, and that helps us overall because fans have more options,” says Reid Sigmon, executive director of the Tampa Bay Super Bowl Host Committee.

One such hotel, an 11-story structure near Interstate 275 that previously carried Ramada and Clarion flags, is now under renovation to become a Crowne Plaza hotel. MHI Hospitality Group bought the 250-room hotel last fall for $13.6 million and plans to invest $22 million in overall improvements.

MHI has the Super Bowl as its goal to finish and reopen the Tampa hotel, which most recently was marked for demolition to make way for a condominium project.

“That’s what’s driving our construction schedule now,” says Scott Kucinski, director of construction services for the Williamsburg, VA-based company. “We dug into that property pretty well before we closed on it in October. It’s something we’re very accustomed to. It’s actually part of our business model.”

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