21:11 PM

IIFA Awards Put Tampa Back in the Global Spotlight

(April 30, 2014) - The International Indian Film Academy Awards (IIFA) have come and gone, but the effects on the Tampa Bay area continue. The world watched as the elite celebrities of Indian cinema, also known as Bollywood, arrived in the Bay area – and what they saw was Tampa International Airport.

Throughout the three-day IIFA Awards, there were parties, fashion shows, and expos, but it all began at the “green carpet” celebrations on the ninth floor of the parking garage at Tampa International Airport. Why green? IIFA switched from a red carpet to green carpet in 2007 to draw attention to the issue of climate change.

Coordinating the arrivals of the Bollywood stars took months of planning by the Marketing, Operations, Police and Maintenance departments.

In recent years, the airport has organized airport operations, security and VIP arrivals for several high profile events including the Republican National Convention and the Super Bowl, but nothing compares to the large scale starpower and fan interaction associated with the IIFA awards.

The staging area had to be set up on the ninth floor of the parking garage, music selected, elevators cordoned, videos set up and escorts arranged.

Throughout the week, hundreds of fans flocked to the airport and screamed in adoration as their favorite entertainers walked the carpet, stopped for selfies and signed autographs.

Meanwhile, airport staff made sure everything worked smoothly.

The maintenance team jump in to action Monday to get the green carpet set up for an unannounced early arrival.

“We set up the barricades, we put up the stanchions, assisted with the podium, assisted with the stage,” said Mike Davis, a member of the Maintenance Department, who has worked at the airport for nine years.

“It’s great. I love it,” Davis said, noting that such work is par for the course, aside from the screaming fans. “We do this every day in some form or another. This is just training. Hopefully this will happen again and again.”

The barricades and stanchions were put in place as part of a well-orchestrated plan by the Airport Police Department to protect the VIPs as they walked the green carpet while allowing the enthusiastic crowds to see the stars.

Scott Loper, Manager of Airport Operations, coordinated many of the escorts, navigating the stars through throngs of autograph seekers.

“It’s been a very interesting, challenging but fun event. It takes a lot of flexibility,” Loper said. “I’ve managed four Super Bowls and this is much more intense. Sort of organized chaos. But all in all it’s an incredible experience.”

Maria Cook, Events Manager, spent most of the week camped out at the green carpet, coordinating music and flower necklaces for the arrivals and keeping the crowds entertained.

She described the experience as “very unique” and “one of a kind” in her 17 years at the airport.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen something like this,” she said. “The whole process with the stars coming through, the green carpet experience, the fan interaction. I did not expect so many people, so excited about things I don’t know anything about. I don’t know this music or the stars.”

Twitter was a huge part of the experience, with Bollywood watchers across the world sharing pictures of the stars at Tampa International Airport. The airport Twitter account picked up more than 500 new followers as the airport released updates on celebrity arrivals and the hashtag #IIFATampaBay received over 1 million impressions during the event.

“Wonderful Pic of @shahidkapoor signing autographs for his fans at Tampa International Airport,” tweeted @Shahid_Loverz, a Twitter account devoted to watching the celebrity, who himself has more than 4 million Twitter followers.