“What We Promised It Would Do”

July 22nd, 2023

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When the Bucs begin training camp this week, they’ll practice in the shadow of one of the NFL’s premier facilities.

Yes, Raymond James Stadium is celebrating its 25th anniversary in grand style. It has held up uncommonly well since Tampa Bay residents passed a referendum calling for a 30-year, half-cent sales tax to fund construction, along with additional projects to serve the community.

The stadium opened on Sept. 20, 1998 with the Bucs beating the Bears 27-15. Tampa Bay rallied from a 15-0 deficit as Trent Dilfer threw a pair of TD passes and Mike Alstott rumbled for 103 yards.

It was the start of something big.

Through the years, the stadium has hosted three Super Bowls, dozens of college bowl matchups, including the national championship game, soccer matches, equestrian events, the Monster Truck competition and concerts ranging from the Rolling Stones to Taylor Swift.

Brian Ford, the Chief Operating Officer of the Buccaneers, says the organization constantly seeks feedback from the fan base regarding potential improvements to the facility.

“We are extremely proud of the enhancements that we have put into maintaining Raymond James Stadium,” Ford says. “Our focus as we head into each new season is to ensure that our guests enjoy a top-of-class experience every time they come to see a game, and the stadium plays a huge role in that gameday experience.”

Ford says the team has spent more than $130 million since 2016 on stadium enhancements, including new video boards and sound system, renovations of clubs and suites and upgraded concession locations.

The field has consistently ranked among the top-rated turfs in the league according to player surveys. The pirate ship in the northeast corner provides a unique characteristic for the fan experience.

Team Glazer consistently gets rave reviews on the stadium the ownership group pushed to build 27 years ago.

Construction began in 1996 and the stadium opened one year before Tampa Stadium was demolished.

“The facility is in very, very good shape,” co-owner Joel Glazer said in 2021. “Our stadium is fan friendly and our fans love it. We get a lot of people from out of town — always rave reviews.”

Former Bucs GM Rich McKay talks to Ira.

Falcons president Rich McKay served as Tampa Bay’s GM during tense negotiations surrounding financing for Raymond James Stadium.

“I’m certainly proud of the effort we all went through to get it done,” McKay says. “In those days, 25 years ago, franchises were at risk. There was movement. There were teams moving, based on stadiums. I was from Tampa, I was a hometown kid, so to me, I just couldn’t imagine that the franchise would move.”

It quickly became clear the Glazers had no intentions of upgrading Tampa Stadium, which opened in 1967.

“The key to the stadium and getting it done was to keep the franchise here,” says McKay. “The next thing was, to me, the Glazers came in as new owners from out of town and really did the right thing. They gave us a chance to get the stadium deal. They gave us plenty of time and they conducted themselves in a way that gave us a chance to do the deal.”

The community tax plan passed two days after the Bucs were drubbed 34-3 at home by the Packers in the 1996 season opener, marking Tony Dungy’s debut as head coach.

“I still remember the day we had the vote,” McKay says. “Today, people don’t have public votes. We had a vote. We had lost the game badly that weekend and Tony asked me after the game. ‘Hey, do you think this game’s going to impact the vote?’ I said that I sure as heck hope not. The stadium itself is fantastic.

“The reason I like the stadium is that it continues to host big events. It does what we promised it would do. What you don’t want to see is one of those stadiums that promises it’s going to do X, Y and Z and they don’t do that. Raymond James has delivered. I give the Tampa Sports Authority and the Bucs credit because in the recent renovation and the capital improvements they’ve done, they’ve made the stadium better than when we opened it.”

Happy anniversary, RayJay.


19 Responses to ““What We Promised It Would Do””

  1. TampaBayBucsFanSince1976 Says:

    What a huge upgrade from the sombrero.

  2. Buc1987 Says:

    Fire the cannons!

  3. Rod Munch Says:

    How long until we start hearing about how the team needs a new stadium or they’re moving to London?

    The Bucs lease is up after the 2027 season I believe, and even with all the improvements they’ve put in recently, they refused to sign an extension. That’s obviously part of a plan, as I’m sure they could have gotten the TBSA to pay for more of those upgrades had they signed a 5 or 10-year extension.

    The Bucs have seen how the stupid Rays have completely messed up their new stadium deal by dragging it out forever, which has also killed the fanbase. So I assume they’ll wait until around 2025, perhaps even 2026, then say they can’t compete, they need a new stadium deal immediately or they’ll be forced to leave, really putting the squeeze on the city.

    Rather than a new stadium, I do wonder what else they could do with the current stadium. I look at the Ice Palace for that. In the early days, that place was nice and clean, but not much to it, was very basic. I think the last time I went there for a while was around 2004, until I went back in 2016, and what the Lightning did was incredible. That place looked and felt like a new arena, even though it’s older than RayJay. They completely redid the interior, added tons of stuff, and it’s fantastic now. I don’t think anyone thinks at all of the Ice Palace being nearly 30-years old now.

  4. Rod Munch Says:

    TampaBayBucsFanSince1976 Says:
    July 22nd, 2023 at 1:42 pm
    What a huge upgrade from the sombrero.


    Indeed. I had season tickets there in 1997, which was awesome since it was the beginning of that SB run, but that stadium would not hold up to my current fancy man standards. Now I won’t even go to a game at RayJay unless I’m getting club seating.

    Speaking of which, while the Bucs have upgraded their club area, they still need more space and more upgrades there to really justify the cost of things and to keep up with what other stadiums are doing. Even me, as a fancy man, I find it more and more difficult to justify the cost of going to games, when frankly I’m more comfortable just watching them in my theater room.



  6. Crickett Baker Says:

    Yah but to me, it’s time they changed the name unless Raymond James comes up with more big bucks.

  7. HC Grover Says:

    But what about 20th Century Drive in and Loch Ness Golf Course?

  8. Bring back the lawn chairs Says:

    One reason why the rays fan base is small is because they refuse to accept cash in all aspects of their operation.
    I understand the Bucs have recently followed in moving to cashless operations as well. As the nfl has followed suit.
    good luck to all that as many still prefer doing transactions in cash. Hey where’s the ‘experience’ in being unable to use one’s hard earned cash.
    Cash is still king. Old school.

  9. View from 132 Says:

    Did the Bucs actually pay for the stadium? No. They still get parking and concessions as “primary tenant” too.

    It is a great stadium, but call it what it is, a facility paid for with public money and treated as true personal property of a billionaire family.

    The finances of that stadium might be called criminal if pro sports wasn’t involved. McKay thanking the Glazers for being gifted a stadium is embarrassing. He’s a tool.

  10. 1sparkybuc Says:

    I did electrical work in the Buccaneer Lockeroom and the sky boxes in preparation for the newest NFL franchise in 1976. The bench seats in the stadium just weren’t up to league standards. Great turf in that stadium, as I know it must be in Raymond James. That was a memorable experience for me. I wish I had been there to work on the new stadium, but was in Washington state at the time.

  11. Rod Munch Says:

    “Bring back the lawn chairs Says:
    July 22nd, 2023 at 5:30 pm
    One reason why the rays fan base is small is because”

    I’ll finish that for… the reason the Rays fan base is small is because… baseball is extremely boring. Also the Trop is an awful stadium – at least for baseball. The Trop was an awful stadium for hockey and arena football, both of which easily outdrew the Rays on average in the same stadium. But for baseball, the Trop is terrible, in particular day games. Nothing puts me to sleep like going to a Sunday afternoon Rays game in April. My God is it boring – and that was back in the early days when they’d still draw 40k for a Sunday game – and the place would be so quiet you could literally hear individual fans on the other side of the giant stadium. Last Rays game I went to was probably in 2015 or so, and there might have been 5,000 people there for a night game, and it reminded me of the last days of Clearwater Mall before they tore it down – when it was just a big, empty, concrete building that just made you feel sad.

    That’s why people don’t care about the Rays. Baseball is a dying sport, and since there’s plenty of other things to do around here, people would rather do those things than go sit in a big concrete bunker.

    With all that said, I still think once the Rays leave town, instead of tearing down the Trop, they should turn it into the worlds largest swimming poll. Just take the top off, fill it water, and you got something!

  12. Rod Munch Says:

    1sparkybuc – They weren’t up to standards in 1976? I had season tickets in 1997 and they were awful then – but in 1976, didn’t everyone have bench seating?

  13. FortMyersDave Says:

    RodMunch: I remember going to the Sombrero in the ’70s and yeah, all the seats were benches. I usually sat with my Dad in the south end zone. Tickets back then were like $6 for those end zone seats and I remember seats in the east and west stands up around row 60 or so were $10. These numbers jumped to $9 and $12 by 1979. In the late ’80s I remember I paid anywhere from $9 to $22 for seats during the Perkins era and the fans went ape when Culverhouse rose the ticket prices to $11 to 30 after one of Ray’s patented 6-10 seasons with a sweep of the Lions, beating the Pack and basically running out of gas after a 4-2 start as Ray had gassed the troops with 3 a days. Yeah, the seats were uncomfortable but going to a game was affordable. Nowadays it is too expensive for most except for perhaps a game a year. Best to watch at home on the 60 inch TV or in a nice AC pub.

  14. FortMyersDave Says:

    Oh yeah Rod, I could see the Glazers eventually making innuendos about “splitting” their season in London or Munich if they do not get whatever they want to stay in Tampa. The Rays’ owner recently tried that with a plan to move 40 games to Montreal but it fell through. I think the Jags have the lead as far as relocation to London. They sacrifice a home game every year to play there and next year they are playing 2 games in the UK. The old Gator Bowl is getting a do over in Jax and the Jags will be looking for new digs for 2 years. The Joe’s floated a story about playing in Daytona on the 500 infield (which is actually a very ingenious idea and would probably get NASCAR fans involved with the Jags. Florida Field in Gainesville and the Citrus Bowl in Orlando have been mentioned too but I bet if Khan had a chance he would try to expand those 2 games in the UK to 4 or possibly more if he could. Just my $0.02.

  15. Bucswin Says:

    How about a big umbrella for some shade for all the 1pm games this year.

  16. garro Says:

    Yeah the Glazers are wonderful people…Unless you are a poor working slob who can’t afford the absorbitant prices for one of their lousy season tickets. Nose bleeds are out of my price range and I’m not allowed to venture in to vast areas of the publicly funded stadium. Which BTW is still not paid for.

    Go Bucs!

  17. garro Says:

    Yeah the Glazers are wonderful people…Unless you are a poor working guy who can’t afford the absorbitant prices for one of their lousy season tickets. Nose bleeds are out of my price range and I’m not allowed to venture in to vast areas of the publicly funded stadium. Which BTW is still not paid for.

    Go Bucs!

  18. PewterStiffArm Says:

    The Tampa Bay tax payers might have some scenarios to munch on in a few years. I lived in Tampa for 29 years so I am familiar with both stadiums. The problem here Ira is that a very important cycle might be brewing with the tax base in Tampa. There are several scenarios that might start some uncomfortable conversations. Even though Raymond James stadium has grown and has kept up with growing internal venues, sooner rather than later the conversations of replacing this stadium might have a copy cat effect. I moved to North Carolina 15 years ago (home of the stinking Panthers) and their stadium is obsolete according to the owner. Charlotte city council rejected recently any notion of taxpayer funds for a new stadium or renovations, the battle has started. David Tepper is already throwing some threats out there to see what might stick. He is dug in and so is the Charlotte city government. The Florida Citrus bowl, Ben Hill at UF, TIAA Bank stadium in Jacksonville are all going through multi- million dollar renovations that might start a copy cat ripple effect. Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns opened stadiums almost at the same time as RayJay. Hard Rock stadium a few years back expanded their stadium with an open air roof and other modern day improvements. Cities around the country are declining even a mere sniff at new stadiums, see Oakland Athletics/Las Vegas Athletics. I was at the New Orleans Saints game this past year and took a tour of Raymond James as I piggy backed off of my sisters season tickets. This stadium might be under scrutiny soon just like the tidal wave of other stadiums around the NFL. I am not sure who will start this conversation in Tampa. But surly who ever does, needs to understand that with the recent construction of new venues around the league and those planned for the future that the price tag will be huge. Especially if we are requesting some sort of retractable roof and maybe a floating pirate ship. Stay tuned Tampa the dog whistle might be sounding soon with only a small amount of people listening.

  19. Diverdo Says:

    Yes I had season tickets in 76 and went home after each game with a sore behind in more was than one. But I had 30 yd line seats mid way up, West side sun to my back. Great sight line and price was right. However, the 30 minute restroom trips were brutal. At the first playoff game against Philly, there was a woman in the men’s room at a toilet stall. As men made cat calls and laughed, she said “I ‘m not standing in the lady’s room line for an hr”. Typical Buc fan one said.
    As for the new Rayjay, they offered me 50 yd line seats (two rows from the top on the sunny east side ( how’s that for a treatment of a charter season ticket holder) Then last year they errected the damn bleacher seats in the South end, closed three concession stands and to make up for that slow down of food service, the credit only slowed it down further. Nope, no loss of a quarter of play to get $12 hotdog. I am done!! My living room and 50 inch will be my seat from now on as I gave up my $125 per game per seat season tickets. Go Bucs.