Local officials celebrate bringing the International Indian Film Awards to Tampa

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"It was not an easy fact sheet to read through," the Commissioner admitted on Monday. "But by the time we had finished and I had an evening to review it, I knew that we were on the verge of bringing something very important and significant to Tampa."

Organizers say there will be up to 32 separate events leading up to the June 2014 awards weekend, which is a three-day event. Venues like the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the Tampa Convention Center, the Florida State Fairgrounds, the USF Sundome and Raymond James stadium have already had tentative holds put on them for the event, Corrada said, with the likelihood that the Forum will host the awards ceremony.

Those ancillary events could include a cricket match, a fashion show and a business forum.

In a way, cricket may have led to the event happening here in the first place. It's the element that Higginbotham says has bonded him with members of the Indian-American community in Tampa Bay, and ultimately with Jason Shah.

Corrada was less forthcoming about what it will cost to put on the event, but did emphasize that there should be plenty of private money invested in the project. He did mention receiving "in-kind" donations from the city and county (and possibly the state).

"I believe it will be somewhere between the the Super Bowl and the RNC," Corrada said when asked what security might be like in Tampa for some of the events, though he hastened to add it probably would not be at the level of last summer's Republican Convention, where the security became something of a story itself.

Shah estimates that as many as 30,000 people will visit Tampa by the time the awards conclude a year from now, with many of the travelers coming from all over the globe.

Corrada admitted that hosting the event will not be easy. Transportation (as usual) is probably the biggest concern. With so many visitors potentially coming to the area, he thinks that Tampa's lack of transit options could come into play if hotel rooms inside the city limits fill up for awards weekend and attendees are forced to stay farther away from the event sites.

Shah says there are close to 200,000 Indian-Americans in Florida, with around 35,000 in the Tampa Bay area. Organizers have floated $12 million as the economic impact of bringing the awards to Tampa, but local philanthropist Dr. Kiran Patel said the success of the event transcends financial impact.

"Exchange of cultures is a way of bringing people together, and if one looks at the narrow perspective of just dollars or cents, I think they are missing the boat." Patel said. "What this event is going to do for Tampa Bay, for the United States and for Florida, I believe, is a game-changer in many, many ways."

This is undoubtedly one of Santiago Corrada's best days in his relatively young term leading Visit Tampa Bay. He said it proves beyond a doubt that Tampa can now play with the big boys when it comes to hosting the biggest events in the world.

"These are the types of events that this bureau will pursue," he declared. "There aren’t always opportunities or invitations to bid on a Super Bowl or a political convention or a World Cup, but there are events like this that bring international attention and visitors to our destination and Tampa will take its rightful place among those well-known and highly visited destinations around the world."

For his part, Al Higginbotham said that "Tampa is a competitor on the world market and economy," adding that "It's through arts and entertainment that countries are brought together."

  • Race for the prize: The IIFA award, aka the "Bollywood Oscar"

There was a large group of people standing behind Visit Tampa Bay CEO Santiago Corrada and Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham at Monday's press conference discussing Tampa's role as host of the 2014 International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards, but none loomed larger than Lutz real estate agent Chetan "Jason" Shah.

Shah is the man who got the process rolling back in January, when he presented the idea to Higginbotham unsolicited during "a five-minute window" in the commissioner's schedule. Shah made the most of it, describing how big a deal landing the event could be for the Bay area. Tampa made its bid after plans for the original 2014 host city were canceled. (That locale was never revealed to the public.) His hard work paid off last Friday, when IIFA made the announcement in Macau, China, that Tampa had beaten a number of American cities (New York, Chicago and San Francisco among them) and would host the event.

"The credit goes to everyone. I'm not the only one who can take any of this credit," Shah said today.

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