Super Bowl Cabbies: Don't Forget to Take a Shower

Times Staff Writer

If you're a San Diego cab driver, Gus Zemba, the public transportation czar of the San Diego Super Bowl Task Force, has an urgent message for you. Make sure that next week, when 80,000 Super Bowl fans and hangers-on descend on the city, you take a shower.

And one more thing, change your clothes daily. Oh, and it would be nice if you got to know the city so you don't have to ask for directions.

Yes, Zemba said Tuesday, he knows his comments are only directed to the 3% to 4% of the town's taxi drivers who are the antithesis of sartorial splendor, but that's all it takes to give the out-of-towners a lasting impression--mostly bad--of their visit to San Diego.

Getting Personal

"Let's put the pressure on them," said Zemba during a Super Bowl task force press conference at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. " . . . have them change their clothes daily" and take baths that week.

"Maybe it's only 3 or 4% . . . but maybe the other 96% will kick some butt here," Zemba, the president of Kopecky Corp. Charter Buses, said. "We want the Super Bowl here again."

Anthony Palmeri, vice president of Yellow Cab in San Diego, agreed with most of what Zemba said.

"It bothers me," Palmeri said of sloppy cabbies, "but they're mostly independent" contractors.

Yellow Cab has outfitted its drivers with Super Bowl baseball caps, among other things, and the cabbies seem to be getting the message about being on their best behavior, he said.

In a wide-ranging presentation, the Super Bowl Task Force--a group composed of city government and private business leaders responsible for preparing San Diego for the game on Jan. 31--touched on several issues.

Transportation:

It's expected that about 1,000 buses will be used to ferry passengers to and from the game. About 550 buses will be private charters that will rent from between $250 to $1,200 a day, depending on whether the charter service is located locally or out of the county. There were some initial instances of attempted price gouging, Zemba said, explaining that the task force can only "suggest, not dictate" rates.

Another 200 buses are from local public transit companies, including 171 from San Diego Transit and the rest from Chula Vista, East and North county transit systems.

Additionally, 250 school buses will be used, mostly to transport entertainers and others involved in the Super Bowl half-time program.

As many as 800 limousines and vans are expected, all certified by the state Public Utilities Commission and all having liability insurance. Limousine rentals are expected to cost $50 to $60 per hour, with a minimum of several hours.

The city has made preparations to handle up to 15,000 rental cars. While the bulk of the taxi cab fleet will be made up of San Diego's 900 or so available cabs, the Task Force said it is adding taxis from El Cajon and Oceanside.

Special preparations are expected at Lindbergh Field, where both the East and West terminals will have extra parking spots for buses and vans. Spanish Landing will be used for the overflow of rental cars and the airport's freight terminal also will be used for additional bus parking.

Added Bus Routes

San Diego transit is adding 21 Super Bowl Day routes, ranging from El Cajon to Oceanside, to take local residents with game tickets to the stadium.

The city is assessing special fees on buses, limousines and vans that use the stadium on game day. Buses, for example, must pay a fee of either $75, if the permit is purchased in advance, or $100 on the day of the game. The task force hopes to receive $75,000 in permit revenue.

Then there is "Departure Day," the hectic 24 hours following the end of the game.

"That's when we anticipate some real problems" at the airport, said Zemba. So not only are more signs being erected around Lindbergh Field to direct drivers turning in rental cars, but car rental companies have told the task force they are hiring more workers to do nothing but handle abandoned cars.

Apparently, Zemba said, some drivers, stuck in traffic as the time for their departing flight dwindles to a few minutes, simply leave their autos parked in the road and sprint for the terminal. On a day when heavy traffic is expected, a few abandoned rental cars can lead to massive traffic tie-ups, something the image-conscious task force wants to avoid.

Once at the terminal, the task force says additional baggage

crews will be available to handle curbside luggage.

Stadium:

The construction of temporary seats has now expanded the stadium from its 60,750-seat maximum during the Chargers season to 74,500 for the Super Bowl, according to Deputy City Manager Jack McGrory. The cost of the one-time expansion is expected to be about $900,000, or about 35% more than first expected.

The new sound system, a $700,000 project being built to replace the stadium's original 20-year-old speaker system, is nearly complete. In all, there will be 476 remote speakers, or about four speakers to a section. Additionally, there is a new main speaker cluster--consisting of about 59 speakers--on the scoreboard.

One thing that hasn't gone smoothly is the NFL's request for a second scoreboard-instant replay screen at the west end of the stadium.

McGrory said plans for erecting the 70,000-pound scoreboard were submitted late by the NFL's contractor and that the city is now reviewing them. The city, McGrory said, wants to be sure construction of the second scoreboard is structurally safe.

Hospitality Tents

Much of the stadium parking lot will be occupied by a large hospitality Tent City and parking for buses, leaving only 8,200 parking spaces for private vehicles. Because of that shortage, only people with game tickets will be allowed into the lot. Stadium manager Bill Wilson, a veteran of three Super Bowls, says that invariably, groups of local residents decide, "We can't go to the game . . . so let's go party in the lot."

What happens, he said, is that the parking lot becomes jammed with non-ticket holders--as many as 5,000 descended on the Rose Bowl during last year's Super Bowl--creating havoc for arriving fans. In response to that threat, the City Council earlier approved an ordinance giving police authority to both ticket and remove people without game tickets from the parking lot.

Because of the lack of parking spaces, the task force is urging local ticket holders, who may number about 12,000, to use buses, taxis or shuttle vans to get to the game. The normal pattern of entering the stadium parking lot is being altered so that people in cars can only get into the parking lot on Friars Road East and West.

Construction of the Tent City is under way. According to McGrory, the facility is taking up 350,000-square-feet of parking lot asphalt. Of that, 110,000 square feet will be covered by the tents, which are used by corporations for pre- and post-game parties. Between 4,500 to 5,000 people are expected to be entertained and fed in the tents.

Security:

Aside from several hundred private security guards, San Diego has assigned 206 city police, nearly 100 of them detectives, to patrol in and around the stadium in three 10-hour shifts starting at 6 a.m. on game day, said police Cmdr. Jim Kennedy.

Police, he said, will be particularly vigilant for ticket scalpers, illegal vendors, counterfeit tickets and drunks.

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