The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are about to play their 20th season at Raymond James Stadium, and yet in many ways it feels like they're walking into a brand new home.
When the Buccaneers' 2017 season begins on Saturday night with a preseason contest against the Cleveland Browns, the newly-redesigned stadium will open its doors to the very people for whom it has been enhanced: the fans.
"The attention to detail in this project, and the vision, is a commitment that the Glazer Family has to this organization, this community and to bringing back a championship to Tampa for all of us," said Buccaneers Chief Operating Officer Brian Ford on Thursday as members of the media were given an advance look at the latest stadium upgrades. "It is going to be exciting for the best fans in the NFL to experience the many enhancements here at Raymond James Stadium. This is our third of four phases, and every part of this project through all three phases, the number-one objective was fan experience. What can we do to enhance the gameday experience, not only for our events but for all events here at Raymond James Stadium?"
Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, a longtime Buccaneer fan, was in the stands when Raymond James Stadium first opened its doors on September 20, 1998. Hagan, who worked with the Glazer Family and the Tampa Sports Authority on the renovation agreement, was impressed with the results of Phase Three of the four-part renovation project.
Pictures of the Buccaneers' enhanced locker room.
"Well, here we are 19 years later and thanks to these outstanding renovations, this stadium still has that new-stadium feel," said Hagan. "Without question it is one of the finest NFL stadiums in the country. This state-of-the-art facility became a reality due to the partnership between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Tampa Sports Authority, Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa."
The latest renovation phase had four main components, enhancing and making the West Club Lounge larger, creating a team store open to all fans, building a spacious new locker room for the Buccaneers and improving the press box. The new West Club design features a dramatic entrance with a stylized, wooden, 30'x50' football. The lounge is also 25% bigger and features 200 new 4K video displays, huge 26'x15' video walls at both ends and a ribbon board that will mirror what is occurring on the ribbon boards inside the stadium bowl. Outside the lounge, all of the seats in the West Club area are brand new, as well.
The $150 million project includes approximately $130 million contributed by the Glazer Family, which is committed to providing the ultimate fan experience and the best possible environment to build a championship team.
"The commitment of the Glazer Family to invest nearly $130 million into renovating our iconic community asset is unprecedented," said Hagan. "Remember this: Per the original license agreement, the Sports Authority was responsible for $25 million in capital improvements. The Buccaneers were not required to put a dime into this facility renovation. So credit the Glazer family. They saw the big picture and what it would mean to our area, and invested in order to make this stadium attractive for marquee events. And I'm pleased to say that it has already paid considerable dividends."
The Buccaneers' new locker room covers 18,000 feat, tripling the size of the team's previous gameday home. The state-of-the-art area is also far more technologically advanced than the previous locker room and it includes top-of-the-line medical facilities.
The brand-new team store, is located in the West Lobby and is accessible from outside the stadium. A game ticket is not necessary to shop, and the store will be open on many non-game days as well. It will stock over 2,000 unique Buccaneer items, including dozens of varieties of jerseys, shirts and hats. This marks the first time in the 41-year history of the franchise that the stadium will include a full-fledged team store.
These significant enhancements, as well as the ones that were brought by the first two phases of the project – highlighted by enormous new videoboards and a greatly improved sound system – are critical in the area's attempts to lure major events to Tampa. Those efforts were already successful in landing the 2017 College Football Championship Game and the team is hopeful that the awarding of Super Bowl LV to Raymond James Stadium will be finalized soon.
"The impact of these types of events is much more far-reaching than just right here at Raymond James Stadium," said Hagan. "The revenue brought into the hospitality industry through our hotels and restaurants is staggering. The national visibility we receive through broadcasts, digital and print exposure for our area drives tourism, corporate relocation and economic development. I want to thank the Glazer family, Brian Ford and the entire Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization for their commitment to Raymond James Stadium and the Tampa Bay area. Their efforts have ensured that we remain an attractive destination and will continue to be awarded world-class events for years to come."
Pictures of the Buccaneersâ brand new team store.
As Ford noted, the current project was realized through 250,000 man-hours of work between 45 different trade crafts, employing many local professionals. Those efforts were actually continuing on Thursday as the last bits of the project were being completed. Ford described it as having the project on the five-yard, ready to get into the end zone before Saturday night's game. None of the renovations of the last three years has interrupted what was already taking place at Raymond James Stadium.
"The fact that this venue could actually host college football, the championship game, along with Beyoncé, U2 and international soccer – that was all done during these renovations," said Tampa Sports Authority President/Chief Executive Officer Eric Hart. "And that is a credit to the people behind the scenes who are making this venue happen, along with the team. The Glazer Family and everything that they've done to make these renovations happen have made this just a wonderful experience for this community."