Student volunteers go the distance for Super Bowl

The Super Bowl has always been the most-watched American sporting event, and it takes the efforts of thousands of local residents to make it go off without a hitch. This year, many of these volunteers are USF students.

The Tampa Bay Super Bowl Host Committee recruited more than 6,400 volunteers to kick off Super Bowl XLIII.  For game day and the eight days leading up to it, volunteers are stationed at airports, hotels and special events to greet crowds with sunny Floridian smiles. Tampa is expected to have 100,000 out-of-town visitors, who are estimated to bring in more than $300 million, said Amanda Holt, director of public relations for the Super Bowl Host Committee.

“The volunteers are the face of Tampa, and a positive experience for visitors will keep them coming back to the region for future tourism, business and special events,” Holt said.

This year’s NFL Experience reflects research — based on interviews with fans, media and transportation departments — that the Tampa delegation conducted during the 2008 Super Bowl in Phoenix.

Volunteers work in different stations at the NFL Experience’s fan festival, assisting with management and supervision of activities such as football exhibits, autograph signings and sports newscasting.

Amanda Zowine, a senior in speech pathology, volunteered for four-and-a-half-hour shifts on Saturday and Sunday because, she said, she likes to participate in unique non-profit events and thought it would be a worthwhile experience.

“My second shift was a lot of fun because I maintained lines, explained rules and judged the 10-yard hustle and two other football obstacle courses,” Zowine said. “Sometimes I would be working by myself and the kids would get out of control.”

Zowine said the volunteer system was very organized and everyone knew what was expected, thanks to an orientation meeting at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Also, the Host Committee sent weekly e-mail updates and distributed pamphlets about Tampa and NFL Experience duties. Volunteers can call a help hotline if they have any problems.

Other NFL Experience volunteer jobs include operating the NFL store, Xbox 360 competitions and exhibitions about the history of football.

The remaining Host Committee volunteers are divided among the Tampa International and St. Petersburg-Clearwater International airports and area hotels. Volunteers greet visitors, answer questions about the region and distribute Super Bowl Host Committee publications.

“The transportation volunteers direct, greet and check NFL staff, guests and sponsor credentials and may also be asked to ride shuttles to assist drivers with directions,” Holt said.  “And you never know who you might meet.”

Most of the out-of-town guests who have trickled in over the past week will be leaving the day after the game, so airport volunteer positions will extend until Monday. 

USF student organizations will work on game day to raise funds for their causes through S.A.F.E. Management, a crowd management company that specializes in stadiums, facilities and events.

“Surf Club members that are working guest services and security are volunteering to donate the money to their organization for funding a competition surf team,” said Ryan Hines, president of USF’s Surf Club.

Workers do not know their specific positions until they meet at the airports at 10 a.m. on game day and divide into groups before taking a shuttle to Raymond James Stadium.

 Hines will be working guest services and said he might be asked to guide people to their seats, take tickets, work concessions, help guests exit the stadium and give assistance with directions after the game.

“I don’t know what to expect, but I think that everything will run smoothly because there are supervisors at each station,” Hines said.

Emma Hauser, director of finances for the Public Relations Student Society of America, is working to donate money for her group to fund professional networking activities and conferences.

“All I have to do to prepare for the big day is bring my ID and be dressed in uniform,” Hauser said. “This is a small price to pay for such an awesome experience. Without being in a student organization, I would not have heard about the opportunity to volunteer and be part of such a great thing like the Super Bowl.”