Raymond James Stadium – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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A Swashbuckler’s Home
Completed in 1998, Raymond James Stadium was built in northern Tampa to replace the aging Tampa Stadium. Publicly funded at the request of Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer, “Ray Jay” currently hosts the Buccaneers as well as the University of South Florida Bulls. It frequently hosts “high profile” neutral site regular season college football games as well as the postseason Outback Bowl. In January 2017, Tampa hosted the College Football Playoff National Championship. The stadium has hosted many national sporting events in its nearly 20 year lifespan. Super Bowls 35 and 43 were both played in the stadium, and the ACC Championship was located in Tampa in 2008 and 2009. Group stage games of the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup were played at Raymond James, and it will also be the site for group stage matches in the 2017 Gold Cup.
Raymond James Stadium has undergone multiple rounds of renovation over the years, and the final product is a stadium that would feel normal if not for the revolutionary post-modern stadium designs that have been built since AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Football seating capacity is 65,890, and can be expanded above 75,000 with the use of temporary bleachers primarily behind the end zone areas.
Food & Beverage 3
Due to a local ordinance, “nutritional information” is posted alongside every menu item within the stadium. While this information is limited to calories, and trying to eat nutritionally at an NFL game may be a fruitless exercise, it may be useful to some patrons. The concessions offered at Raymond James Stadium may not feature anything truly thrilling or exceptional, but they do offer a very wide variety of the typical stadium fare. This means that there is something for everyone, from burgers and chicken tenders to hot dogs and even Cuban sandwiches ( $11.25). The prices are fair for this level of quality, while still falling in line with what you would expect at a professional sports stadium. Classic (Plain) Cheeseburger are $7.50, Footlong Hot Dog $7.50 and Beer $8.50 to $10.25. Sodas range from $4.25 to $7.75
If you are a season ticket holder, you get a discount on concessions, between 15% and 25%. Definitely a nice perk, but probably something that doesn’t convey a real economic advantage unless you really enjoy stadium food.
I was surprised by the atmosphere inside the stadium. Some NFL crowds have reputations as wine and cheese crowds, with rowdy fans being priced out by corporate season tickets. I think the Buccaneers deserve some credit for utilizing the flavor associated with their team and maximizing the architecture provided by the stadium. At the north and south concourse, under each scoreboard, there are very large pavilions set up. Fans can gather here for standing room only hangouts, and the huge, high quality scoreboards give you a great view of the action on the field. A massive pirate ship sits on the northern concourse and can be seen from anywhere in the stadium. Before the game, the team runs a short video feature showing Buccaneer players loading and firing cannons toward a ship bearing the logo of the opposing team. Fans cheer as cannons are “fired” from the north scoreboard, with hits on the enemy ship echoing on the south scoreboard. The scoreboards fire cannon noises for each Buccaneer score, and at other times throughout the game.
The branding and graphic design throughout the stadium is impressive and modern, leveraging the rich flavor behind the Buccaneer/pirate theme. Signs above the concessions are clean and modern, and really hide the true age of the stadium.
The fans are also engaged throughout the game. I attended a late season game against a divisional opponent, and the Buccaneers were trying to claim a playoff spot, and the fans did what they could to propel their team forward. Atmosphere was also helped by the weather, with overcast clouds keeping temperatures in the mid 70s. I have heard that the heat and humidity can be quite oppressive if you are at a game earlier in the season, and that may dampen fan enthusiasm.
There’s not much to be said for the neighborhood around Raymond James Stadium. There are minor league baseball fields and a community college across the street, and that’s about it. The airport is a couple miles away, and adult entertainment establishments line the major streets leading to and from the stadium. There are a couple of modern bar and taphouse-style restaurants nearby, but you won’t be missing much by skipping the immediate area pre and postgame. There is an exception: if you are a craft beer fan, the Cigar City Brewing taproom is only two miles from the stadium. Brewing some of the best beer in the country, they offer a large menu of excellent flagships beers, innovative seasonal rotators and, of course, a cigar room.
The fans at the game I went to were loud and proud of their team, but without getting to the point of being belligerent or disrespectful. The Bucs were playing the Saints, and Saints fans are usually happy to make their presence known on the concourses and in the seating areas. Jerseys were plentiful, with old and tattered Derrick Brooks jerseys from the late 90s spotted next to freshly purchased Jameis Winston jerseys.
Getting to Raymond James Stadium can be a bit of a chore. There are several major surface streets that go to the stadium, but they are often congested on game days. Parking is plentiful, and even affordable – I paid $15 for a parking pass ahead of time, and had a 10 minute walk from my car to the stadium. If you want to rely on public transportation, you may be in for a headache. Locals recommend a taxi, Uber or Lyft, as busses drop passengers far from the stadium. The best option, if you have a car, is to get a prepaid parking permit and park in one of the Raymond James lots.
Return on Investment 4
On average, tickets to Buccaneers games are less expensive than the NFL average according to Time Magazine. With inexpensive parking and reasonably priced concessions, the Buccaneers represent a value over the typical NFL experience. This is also a young team filled with exciting players who are making a strong push for a playoff spot in 2016. I believe that the Buccaneers present a good value and return on investment compared to other NFL teams.
There’s something to be said for football games played in Florida in December. While much of the league was dealing with temperatures near zero and snowstorms, the game I attended had temperatures in the low 70s. You can’t beat that sort of creature comfort. The team has done an amazing job of tailoring the stadium to the Buccaneers image and branding. The pirate ship is excellent and likely to be a big hit with children if you are looking to bring your family. The simulated cannon blasts during the game are always entertaining.
Overall, Raymond James Stadium presents a surprising experience. As the NFL (and American professional sports in general) trends toward the hypermodern AT&T Stadium-Levi’s Stadium-US Bank Stadium style, it’s nice to attend a game at a venue built in the mid-1990’s that doesn’t feel old. The Buccaneers have an exciting team, and look poised to compete in a division that is always up for grabs. The Buccaneers and Raymond James Stadium provide an above average experience without any truly exceptional features besides the pirate theme and the product on the field, but also without any serious drawbacks besides the less than ideal immediate neighborhood.
The Buccaneers make sure the pirate concept is very obvious in almost every aspect of the stadium. The team deserve credit for utilizing the concept. This concept makes the stadium experience very entertaining.
Food and Drink Recommendations
Tampa Airport Marriott
Tampa International Airport
Tampa, FL 33607
Residence Inn by Marriott Tampa Westshore/Airport
4312 W Boy Scout Blvd
Tampa, FL 33607
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