Riverwalk is Bulls Country

New cell phone guided tour made possible by USF Students in Free Enterprise and friends launches Jan. 25.


Along Tampa Riverwalk are, l-r, SIFE vice president Yogesh Chatulani, SIFE alumna Victoria Reeves and SIFE marketing director Katya Torres, who

served as project manager of the phone guide project.


By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Jan.  24, 2012) – The iconic buildings and attractions along Tampa’s emerging Riverwalk are being pulled into the information age with help from USF Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), working with the Friends of Riverwalk.


Together they developed seven stations where anyone with a cell phone can learn more about many of Tampa’s downtown treasures – from a three-diamond rated floating restaurant, to a  Native American settlement, parks, museums, performing arts centers, the Aquarium and the gateway to Tampa’s future.


At each stop between Channelside Bay Plaza and the Patel Conservatory, a sign prompts visitors to call a special number where they will hear brief descriptions of the surrounding points of interest in a voice familiar to many Tampa Bay residents, News Channel 8 anchor Gayle Sierens. 


Once connected, they select from a menu of choices and get informed about such highlights as the Yacht StarShip restaurant, Tampa’s earliest settlement Cotanchobee Ft. Brook Park, the Sail Pavilion, the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, Glazer Children’s Museum and even USF Park among many others.


Katya Torres, a business management major who graduated in December, junior and communications major Maishia Yang, senior and finance major Thao Tran and Yazhuo Liu, a graduate student in industrial management systems engineering comprise the team that was instrumental in making this new project a reality. They will stand with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, SIFE advisor Dameion Lovett who serves as assistant director of University Scholarships and Financial Aid Services and executives from major sponsor, Verizon, to launch the new service Jan. 25 at 2 p.m. at Macdill Park, located at 100 N. Ashley Drive.


The research that went into the project provided an education.


“I was surprised to see that there’s such a wonderful small business community in downtown Tampa,” Torres said. “I learned that they really help each other and work together. I was also struck by how much they are involved with civic organizations and charities.”


SIFE developed the project with Guide-By-Cell, a company based in California that specializes in telephone tours.  Callers get enlightening explanations and the company keeps track of how many calls come in from which area codes that will help the City of Tampa gather statistics. 


“The system is very user-friendly,” Torres said. “I think the two miles feel a lot shorter as you move from one station to the next. Each one was designed to get you to go to the next one.”


Two years in the making, the idea began taking shape between former SIFE president and chapter co-founder Ferdian Jap and Friends of Riverwalk Executive Director Roger Kurz. With help from Lee Hoffman, the City of Tampa’s development manager who supported the project with the colorful signage everything looked promising except for one key ingredient – money. 


SIFE members had to get creative. They came up with a charity event during Gasparilla but it wasn’t until Verizon stepped in with a sizable donation that the project reached completion.


“Verizon’s involvement really got things moving,” said Torres. “The project is pretty much self-sustaining and really low-maintenance. The Friends of Riverwalk board of directors will oversee things long after we’ve all graduated and gone on to pursue our careers.”


Working on the project helped reinforce Torres’ decision to plan to continue living in Tampa as she makes plans to attend law school.


“This is a wonderful city, a growing city and a truly great canvas for entrepreneurs,” Torres said.


USF SIFE is a chapter in what is a global organization with chapters at more than 1,500 college campuses in over 40 countries. For the all-volunteer group there is a lot to be gained from membership.

According to Torres, “We form lifelong friendships, we connect with local businesses, we get tremendous mentoring from experienced entrepreneurs in addition to learning about how to raise money. And one of the most satisfying parts is getting involved with educating the community about financial issues and finding ways to make sustainability a winning proposition for businesses.”

For more information about SIFE at USF and how to get involved, click here, visit Facebook,   http://ctr.usf.edu/sifeusf/default.html   or call (813) 974-5462.

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.