Transforming Tampa into ‘Bulls Country’

One motorist exits Interstate 275 onto Fowler Avenue. Another heads down Nebraska Avenue while a third moves through the burgeoning area off of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

Ask them where they are, and most likely the answers will be Tampa, New Tampa and maybe Temple Terrace.

But that’s not what Bob Fiallo of USF community relations wants to hear. To him, the area surrounding the university’s campus is known by one name: “Bulls Country.”

“We may be part of Tampa, but North Tampa, that’s our town,” Fiallo said.

The goal of the Bulls Country task force, which will meet Tuesday, is to turn the area surrounding the university’s campus into the equivalent of a small college town in the midst of a city, Fiallo said. The way to accomplish that goal, he said, is to spread the word among local merchants and to fill area streets with banners and billboards.

“Basically what we’re trying to do, there has been a need to try to get more interaction between (area merchants) and the university,” Fiallo said. “We want people to know they’re in Bulls Country.”

Fiallo said he has seen some success in his goal of turning local merchants into USF supporters. The McDonald’s on the corner of Fowler Avenue and 56th Street, he said, has traded in its trademarked red and yellow for a green and gold interior. The Ruby Tuesday restaurant has made similar changes. In addition, Fiallo said the Wingate Inn on Fowler Avenue has renamed its conference rooms Bulls Country 1 and 2.

But the question remains, with a university located in the midst of a metropolitan area, is there enough interest to create a college town feel?

Fiallo said after seeing the results of studies that show 85,000 USF graduates live within 50 miles of campus, he feels the interest is present.

“Things are going really well,” Fiallo said. “A lot of people in the community want to get involved.”

As Fiallo works on implementing plans that include a new Web site, only two weeks remain until what will be an important event for the task force.

On Sept. 28, the day USF’s football team will take on highly ranked Oklahoma, the University Mall will host a pep rally and USF day.

The event, which will last from 1 p.m. until 6 p.m., will feature performances by the USF cheerleaders, Rocky the Bull and possibly the Sun Dolls. Mall merchants will also be offering student discounts.

In addition, Fiallo said New Millennium Media has donated the use of a truck carrying a jumbo television screen, which will be placed in the mall parking lot. The football game, which is currently scheduled for 3 p.m., will be shown on the screen.

Fiallo said with all of the events scheduled for the afternoon, he hopes for a large crowd.

“For people going by on Fowler, we hope they see the game and come on by,” Fiallo said.

As for the future of Bulls Country, Fiallo said he hopes the concept will extend throughout USF’s other campuses. He wants to see green and gold in the area surrounding campus.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Fiallo said the task force will discuss just how to accomplish that goal. He said he is excited about the possibilities for the university area.

“I know I sound like a cheerleader,” Fiallo said. “But believe me, this is cool.”