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Otto: Unlock the garage, then Tampa Bay

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Published:   |   Updated: June 2, 2013 at 08:35 AM

Pulling into the Tampa Convention Center garage, I parked and headed for the center.

There was a crowd of maybe 50 to 60 people in a herd near the exit.

I wandered over to see what was going on. There appeared to be three lines, although a number of people were just standing there. It was the place where you pay your parking fee.

The problem was that neither of the two machines the city has installed was working. An obviously bedraggled city worker was at the head of another line. One of her problems was that the people in the machine lines were waiting 10 to 15 minutes only to discover the machines weren’t taking credit cards. The only currency each was accepting was a $10 bill.

That meant the people in those lines, after arguing with the machine, would go to the line with the human and try to cut in, which in turn didn’t sit well with those already in line.

I watched the confusion for a few minutes and then headed off to the convention center, where the people who give the city and county a “brand” had come up with a new one and were going to announce it to 300 or so movers and shakers.

And sure enough they did, in a video with the volume turned up for those in Brazil who couldn’t be here. The group, by the way, used to be called Tampa Bay and Co., which sounded like a radio show. Their new name is “Visit Tampa Bay.”

Anyhow, the announcement came as a graphic of the new logo was flashed on the screen. “Unlock Tampa Bay,” it read, wrapped around a pair of crossed keys below a keyhole. According to their brochure, the product is the result of more than a year’s effort that included surveys taken around the world.

That seemed like a lot of effort and money to spend on something like this. I mean, it doesn’t rival “The Next Great City” slogan. But the gathered movers and shakers cheered and seemed ecstatic over the “Unlock Tampa Bay” thing. I was standing there next to former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turanchik, who has been in the news promoting ferry service across the bay. He thought the logo was the best in a long line of efforts.

“Ignite global passion for visiting Tampa Bay,” the brochure suggested. “We aren’t branding palm trees and sun,” it continued, “we’re branding an attitude that has — and will define Tampa Bay.”

That all sounded pretty good. I collected the brochure and a free T-shirt and left the hall and went back to the garage, where there was still a knot of people huddled around the two non-working machines and the even more bedraggled city worker.

“They’ve been having trouble with those machines since they put them in,” she admitted. “It’s hot in here and I’m getting tired of trying to explain that I’m not in charge of anything.”

I thought about giving the woman the T-shirt with the crossed keys and keyhole and with “Unlock Tampa Bay” on it, but figured she might not appreciate the thought and the people in line might not feel like unlocking Tampa Bay at the moment.

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