Tampa Bay is home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers football team. If you live in the Tampa Bay area you are also well aware that the people fiercely defend their sports teams with a great amount of enthusiasm and vigor. Tampa Stadium was the main venue for The Buccaneers and its 1967 original design included a unique look of arched grandstands. The Stadium also hosted university sports events of all kinds.
Seating was first maxed at around 45,000 and it wasn’t long before expansion was required. You see, even though people in Tampa Bay may be from many areas of the country, the love their team. Closing up the arches added an additional 27,000 seats to the stadium. When you first viewed the stadium, you understood why it was then referred to as ‘The Big Sombrero”. In the 1980’s more renovations were done to get ready for the first Super Bowl. The addition of press boxes and suites enhanced the seating and prestige of the stadium. By 1990 additional flagpoles as well as new end zone scoreboards completed the picture of a more modern up-to-date stadium.
Two Super Bowls, a USFL Championship Game, Outback Bowls, college rival games and even a monster truck rally were all held at Tampa Stadium. Famous concerts that were held there included: The Eagles, Kenny G, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead, Jethro Tull, David Bowie, U2 and the memorable Led Zepplin concert in 1973 that brought in almost 57,000 fans.
The main problem with Tampa Stadium was the fact that it was built of concrete. Tampa is in a subtropical heat zone and there just isn’t enough shade to allow the players to remain cool. Fans had an option of escaping into grandstand shade areas, but players always suffered the possibility of heat stroke. Due to the heat factor, games were often played late in the day and in the early evening. But, it soon became apparent that this strategy was not enough.
In 1995, the new owner of The Bucaneers stated that the stadium was not sufficient and a new stadium would have to be built. Plans for The Raymond James Stadium began with a location not far from the existing venue. In 1998 demolition on Tampa Stadium began with a visionary concept for the new stadium. Often referred to as “The New Sombrero” it is in honor of its predecessor only, as the shape of The Raymond James Stadium does not reflect the name. Also called “Ray Jay”, The Raymond James Stadium reflects everything that today’s fans are looking for in a stadium. There are high tech rotating trilon scoreboards, flag poles for the various teams and even a cannon that shoots every time a local team scores a point. It is also the main location for the locally known “Mini Gasparilla” with a pirate ship available for the news reporting during the various Super Bowls that have been hosted there. The Tampa Bay fans have embraced the new stadium with the same exuberance that they are famous for.