Buc fans have all weekend to survey the various sections at Raymond James Stadium and find the perfect game day location
Pillowy white clouds skimmed unhurriedly across the Tampa sky late Saturday morning, pushed by the same light breeze that made the warm May day pleasant inside Raymond James Stadium. One could stand in the shadow of the famous pirate ship in the north end zone and gaze up at the bright blue sky, punctuated by white dots and framed by the red battle flags along the circular top of the stadium.
There were Buccaneer fans moving all about Raymond James Stadium on Saturday morning, and some of them did look skyward. But mostly they were staring down, towards the brilliantly green field, getting an exact feel for what a specific seat location would be like on a Buccaneers game day.
This was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Pick A Seat event at RJS, and it was just beginning.
Gate C into the stadium opened at 10:00 a.m. ET on Saturday, letting in a knot of fans who had gathered at the entrance early in order to take full advantage of the day. Once inside, fans had their run of the place; they were free to visit any section on any level, and wherever they found a seat marked with a bright white tag, they could consider making that spot their own.
The Bucs and their fans were blessed with a beautiful day on Saturday, and the forecast looks perfect for the rest of the day, both in terms of the weather and the opportunity for all who choose to visit the stadium. The gate will remain open until 6:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, then reopen again on Sunday for another 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. session.
Entrance is free, concession stands are open and there's no obligation…just a chance for prospective season ticketholders to pick out the perfect location for them. That's exactly what a pair of diehard Buc fans named Jeremy Dunbar and Richard Grimes decided to do on Saturday. The two friends in their early 20s put on Earnest Graham (for Dunbar) and Barrett Ruud (for Grimes) jerseys to get into the spirit, then came down to the stadium early to check out their options.
Dunbar and Grimes, both lifelong Tampa natives, checked out Section 120 first, an end zone slice just under the pirate ship. They found tagged seats and were soon helped by one of the approximately 60 grey-shirted Buccaneer employees on hand to provide any necessary information.
Twenty minutes later, not sure that option was the right one for them, Dunbar and Grimes planned to head up to Section 339 in the upper level on the west side of the stadium. They insisted on checking out that side because they wanted to make sure they were located behind the home team bench. Clearly working out every detail of their possible game day experience, the two also wanted to enter the stadium through a gate as close as possible to where they normally park.
"It's a good view up there, too," said Grimes. "You get a good view in the stadium no matter where you're sitting. I just wanted to check out the possibility of sitting lower. We haven't decided what we're going to do, but it was good to get a chance to see what was available."
Added Dunbar: "This is definitely something new, letting people get a chance to really take a look at the seats before they get them. I thought that was a great idea, personally, for them to open the stadium like this."
Last year, Grimes and Dunbar attended several games with tickets they purchased from Grimes' mother. If they can get the details just right – and that's the whole point of the Pick A Seat event – they may become season ticketholders of their own this year. Though they're fans through thick and thin, the two are optimistic about 2009, energized by the wave of change that has taken place since the elevation of Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik to head coach and general manager, respectively.
Both, for instance, think the Jermaine Phillips-at-linebacker experiment is going to end well.
"I love Jermaine Phillips," said Grimes. "I think he's going to do phenomenal. I've been reading up on how he's been doing as the weakside linebacker. I think he's very promising there. And because they're doing that, I guess they're bringing Sabby Piscitelli in to fill his void, and I love Sabby Piscitelli."
That's the part that excites Dunbar, that and the team's overall youth movement.
"He's a real quick strong safety, too," said Grimes of Piscitelli. "He can get down the field. He's got a lot of speed in him, which I didn't realize until he started to get on the field a little more last year. They wanted to get younger, I understand. We haven't had the opportunity to develop a lot of the young players that we've had. Now we have a chance to do that, mainly at the quarterback position. I know we have the youngest offensive line in the NFL, and they're changing up the blocking scheme and it's going well, from what I hear."
Of course, like any solid Buc fans, they have strong opinions on most of the moves the team makes. Both Grimes and Dunbar, for instance, said they will find it strange this fall not to see longtime Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks on the field on Sundays at Raymond James Stadium. Still, their hopes are high, and that's why a visit to the stadium made sense to the two on Saturday morning.
"It's just a matter of time until we get into a groove," said Dunbar. "Hopefully, it's from the preseason on, because the NFC South has a tough schedule this year!"
Did the two become season ticketholders on Saturday, so they could see it in person as Phillips and Piscitelli grow into their new roles this fall? We left them to their decision as they moved on to Section 339. All across the stadium, though, fans sat in white-tagged seats and let the perspective and the experience sink in. Dozens, well before noon, were standing in line at conveniently placed processing stands, white tags in hands.
Pick A Seat worked for them. There's still plenty of time for it to work for you.