George Levy, left, is shown with his brother Leonard. [Photo courtesy Tampa Bay Times]
George Levy, businessman, philanthropist and Bay area icon, died on Tuesday after a six-year battle with a rare disease called amyloidosis. He was 83.
Levy leaves behind a wife, Judy, and four children, plus an indelible mark on the community he has called home since growing up in South Tampa. For decades, Levy has been instrumental in bringing professional teams and major sports events to the Bay area, beginning with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1970s. Along with his twin brother, Leonard, he was an influential member of the Florida West Coast Pro Football Task Force that successfully landed the NFL's 27th franchise in Tampa.
"George, along with his brother Leonard, played an instrumental part in turning Tampa into a major sports market through a relentless passion for sports and love of the Tampa Bay community," said Buccaneers Co-Chairman Bryan Glazer. "His visionary leadership and non-stop work ethic as an advocate for our area was critical to landing the Buccaneers in Tampa as well as securing multiple Super Bowls for our community. He was a community icon as well as a dear friend to our organization and he will be sorely missed."
Founder of one of the largest trophy-making companies in the United States, Levy worked behind the scenes on Bay area philanthropic causes throughout his life. A former sportswriter and swim coach, he also remained intricately involved in the Gulf Coast sports scene, as in the 1990s when led the campaign to get the half-cent Community Investment Tax approved in Hillsborough County. That tax continues to provide funds for local schools, infrastructure and emergency services, and it also led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium, ensuring that the Buccaneers would remain in the Bay area.
In the 1980s, both Levy brothers served on the task forces that bid to bring the NFL's Super Bowl to Tampa for the first time. The bids were a success, first for Super Bowl XVIII in 1984 and again for Super Bowl XXV in 1991, both played at Tampa Stadium. The Bay area has since played host to two more Super Bowls (XXXV, XLII), both held at the new stadium for which Levy helped lay the groundwork. Raymond James Stadium also annually holds the Outback Bowl, another prominent Tampa sports event that Levy helped establish (it was originally known as the Hall of Fame Bowl).
The Buccaneers played in a Super Bowl of their own in January of 2003, bringing an NFL championship to the Bay area for the first time with a win over Oakland. That Lombardi Trophy, not to mention 41 years of Buccaneer football, might never have come to Tampa without the tireless work of George Levy, one of the all-time great friends of the franchise.