History of Lakeland and Tom McEwen's roll in Bucs, Bolts, Yankees, and Super Bowl

7:57 AM, Apr 29, 2010   |    comments
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The awful names Lakeland almost got stuck with, plus the worldwide story behind the city's iconic swans. And, the street named for a Tampa Bay sports pioneer who's helped give millions a reason to cheer.  

Why do they call it Lakeland?

Swans are the symbols of this Polk County city.

They're soaring on signs and swimming in the 13 named, natural lakes that dot this town. 

Lakeland's first swans were noted in the 1920s. They were probably pets, which had been set free. By the 1950s, they had all died off.

So a woman who missed the silent, soothing sight of the swans wrote to Queen Elizabeth II.

Apparently, the queen owns all of the swans on certain sections of the Thames River in London.

With royal permission, the woman -- Mrs. Robert Pickardt -- raised the money to ship a pair of the queen's swans from England to Lakeland. Their descendants still float serenely on the city's lakes.

Those lakes are obviously what give Lakeland its name. But "Lakeland" beat out some ugly ducklings before it was chosen.

Among rejected names for the city:

Munnville was considered, but town founder Abraham Munn said no thanks.

Red Bug was also in the running, but that insect-inspired option was overruled, and Lakeland was incorporated in 1885.

Why do they call it Tom McEwen Boulevard?

The road that runs along Raymond James Stadium's southern edge has two names: Tampa Bay Boulevard and Tom McEwen Boulevard.

Who's Tom McEwen?

"He was the sports editor for the Tampa Tribune for a very, very, very long time," said Rodney Kite Powell, the curator of the Tampa Bay History Center. The history center in Tampa's Channelside area displays key pieces of our area's sports past.

In his 30 years at the Tribune, Tom McEwen saw his sports staff grow from 3 to 63.

But he did more than cover sports. He lobbied for sports to come to Tampa Bay, and made pals with powerful people who had lots of pull.

"He was one of the people who was instrumental in getting the Buccaneers here in the 1970's. One of the people instrumental in getting the Lightning here," Kite-Powell said.

Many folks credit the presence of the Bucs, Bolts, Yankees spring training, and four Super Bowls in Tampa to the influence of the man honored along that short stretch of road near the stadium.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

There are a lot more places out there with names that could use explaining. If you want to ask "Why do they call it that?" send an e-mail with a name that has you curious to Grayson Kamm using this link.

We'll be featuring new places and stories each Wednesday on The Morning Show from 5-7 a.m. on 10 Connects.

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