(tăm'pə), city (1990 pop. 280,015), seat of Hillsborough co., W Fla., a port of entry with an impressive harbor on Tampa Bay; inc. 1855. The third largest city in the state, Tampa has long been a shipping and manufacturing hub on the Gulf Coast. It is at the center of a large resort and retirement area, and has breweries and seafood and citrus-packing houses; it formerly had a significant cigar industry. Tampa's port is one of the largest in the United States, with phosphate docks and elevators. The city extends down a peninsula, with Old Tampa Bay on the west, Tampa Bay to the south, and Hillsborough Bay on the east. MacDill Air Force Base is situated at the tip of the peninsula.
Tampa Bay was visited by Pánfilo de Narváez in 1528, and in 1539 De Soto rescued the sole survivor of that expedition. He negotiated (on the present site of the Univ. of Tampa) a peace treaty with the natives, but they remained so hostile that for almost 200 years Europeans avoided the area. The first white settlement began in 1823, and U.S. Fort Brooke was built in 1824; the town grew around the fort. In the Civil War, it was taken (May, 1864) by Union troops. Tampa's real development began with the growth of a fishing industry, the discovery of phosphate in 1883, and the construction of railroads and the introduction of cigar making in the late 1880s. (Ybor City was the headquarters of the cigar industry and the center of Tampa's Hispanic population.) During the Spanish-American War, Tampa was a military base; Theodore Roosevelt trained his Rough Riders there.
In 1953, Tampa's suburbs were consolidated with the city, almost doubling the population. Suburban growth since the 1970s has left Tampa at the center of the burgeoning metropolitan region that encompasses St. Petersburg and Clearwater. Three long bridges link Tampa with Clearwater and St. Petersburg, on the Pinellas peninsula.
The city is the seat of the Univ. of Tampa (a magnificent example of Moorish architecture, originally built as a huge hotel) and the Univ. of South Florida. There is an international airport, and the city's many points of interest include Ybor City, a cigar museum, a museum of science and natural history, the county historical museum, and Tampa Bay Downs racetrack. The Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center (1987) is a part-time home of the Florida Orchestra. Nearby is Busch Gardens, a theme park famous for its large African zoo and tropical garden.
Tampa is home to the Buccaneers of the National Football League, the Devil Rays of baseball's American League, and the Lightning of the National Hockey League. Several major-league baseball teams have spring training camps in the area. A state fair is held there, and the legend of José Gasparilla, an alleged pirate, is celebrated annually by a mock invasion of the city.