‘Ray Jay’ revamp work totally foolproof


Raymond James Stadium ready for Super Bowl Image: Tampa Sport Authority

Irrespective of the fact whether fans will be allowed at the Super Bowl LV to be held in Tampa, Florida (US) on February 7th, 2021, the Raymond James Stadium is being reconfigured and upgraded if at all spectators are allowed into the venue fold. The National Football League (NFL) is adopting a wait-and-see approach with respect to the number of fans that will be able to attend Super Bowl LV.

The Super Bowl LV, the 55th Super Bowl and the 51st modern-era National Football League (NFL) championship game to be held on February 7th, 2021, will decide the league champion for the 2020 NFL season and will be held at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

Raymond James Stadium, also known as ‘Ray Jay’, is a multipurpose stadium located in Tampa, Florida (US). It is home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL as well as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA’s) South Florida Bulls football team and the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL. The stadium accommodates 65,618 supporters.

The National Football League is a professional American football league consisting of 32 teams, divided equally between the National Football Conference and the American Football Conference.

‘Forbes’ reported that it is due to the untiring efforts of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ ownership and the Tampa Sports Authority, which manages the facility, that renovations have taken place over a four-year period at a cost of about $160 million.

Redecoration work of the stadium started in January 2017 and fans attending Buccaneers and college football games since that point have undoubtedly noticed the many upgrades within the seating bowl and other areas of the venue, which opened in 1998.

The coronavirus outbreak which continues to thwack the United States necessitated an unexpected layer of installations prior to this season. To that extent, Tampa Sports Authority President and CEO Eric Hart said $6.5 million in Federal funding provided by the CARES Act, the $2.2 trillion economic stimulus package signed into law by US President Donald Trump in late March, was employed to address the health and safety of fans and staff. (Raymond James Stadium was approved for $10.4 million in Federal funding. Hart said nearly $4 million will be returned and used for “other programs” in Hillsborough County, which is where the stadium sits).

‘Forbes’ further reported that as is the case with many NFL and college football venues during the pandemic, the fan experience at Raymond James Stadium is totally touchless and cashless starting from the parking lot, to ticketing, to concessions and the fan shop. The Super Bowl will be a cashless event, something that will be the norm, and the stadium’s staffs have been thoroughly tutored on the same.

Touchless restroom fixtures were set up as were nearly 300 hand sanitizer stations throughout the venue, which also has strict social distancing measures applied at ingress points and on the concourses.

Of the eight games the stadium’s tenants, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the University of South Florida, have played at Raymond James Stadium this season, the last six have been in front of limited attendance of onlookers. Attendance has been capped at 25 percent, or roughly 16,000 fans in the 65,618-seat venue. The matchups graced by fans have served as pilots for the Super Bowl.

‘Forbes’ quoted Hart as saying, “We have not seen significant issues and, actually, people are getting more comfortable with (the safety upgrades). I think the plan that we have in place has worked pretty well and we continue to tweak it. We learn from each event and we are getting to the point where people are starting to get used to it and understanding it.”

Revamp work done prior to the 2017 national championship game included the installation of high-definition videoboards, an upgraded sound system and enhanced WiFi capabilities.

The 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship was a bowl game that was used to determine a national champion of college football in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision for the 2016 season. The game was played at Raymond James Stadium on January 9th, 2017.

Several other projects were already underway or planned prior to the NFL’s October 2017 announcement that Tampa would host Super Bowl LV. Those upgrades included new seatbacks, upgraded concession areas, expansion of the team store and repurposing the club levels and suites.

‘Forbes’ stated that the Super Bowl announcement set the wheels in motion for additional projects that were completed by the start of the current season. Upgrading the field’s drainage system and the setting up of LED lighting were among major projects that were tackled. As per Hart, the lighting system features more than two million color schemes.

Informed Hart, “(The field drainage) was still good, but we decided we wanted it to drain a little better. But the big one was the lights. That really added a dynamic feature to the venue and makes for a nice fan experience.”

Fans can get an exalted experience even outside the walls of the arena as well. Hart put in that more than $50 million was spent on 5G technology that will extend to all parking lots that surround the venue. The system is not complete, but should be by roughly mid-December.

The head honcho continued, “From our understanding, we are the only building in the world that will have this throughout the building. It is designed for all the new 5G users. Technology-wise, the building has been significantly upgraded.”

Stadium personnel can also communicate via a public address system from anywhere in the building to any of the parking lots. Speaker systems were installed atop 5G towers lodged in the parking area.

Hart maintained, “When we have an issue where we need to communicate out into a remote lot, we can stage, we can break it into zones and actually make announcements from anywhere in the building to anywhere in the parking lots.”

‘Forbes’ further added that the project represents the back end of a string of renovations and upgrades playing out over the past four years. Combined with health and safety measures that have been put in place keeping in mind the COVID-19 threat, the stadium experience should be enriching for fans attending the Super Bowl.

“Everything from the videoboards, to the suites to the LED lighting and several other improvements have made it possible to host another Super Bowl,” asserted Rob Higgins, Executive Director, Tampa Bay Sports Commission, which takes the lead when it comes to bidding on and hosting major sporting events in the Tampa Bay region and which is working in close collaboration with the Super Bowl host committee.

Higgins concluded, “The Tampa Sports Authority and Raymond James Stadium have done a fantastic job preparing the building for fans. They have really transformed the stadium to make it the safest environment possible. Naturally, that is something that we are really pleased and excited about for Super Bowl LV.”

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