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22,000 Fans Set to Attend Raymond James this Weekend

By Travis Politakis

From the Tampa Bay Lightning winning the Stanley Cup in September 2020, to the Rays making the World Series in October 2020, to the most recent success of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers being the first team in NFL history to play in the first hometown Super Bowl, the city of Tampa has felt like the epicenter of the sports world. 

With that, comes many great things for the city. Increased national media publicity, increased tourist attraction, and overall more income and infrastructure for the city of Tampa. Tourists are influenced to come and spend money on food, lodging, transportation; all which are helpful in bringing money to the city. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic still very much alive, Super Bowl week is going to look a little bit different. 

Probably the most obvious change, is the reduced number of fans at the Super Bowl. According to NFL.com, there will be approximately 22,000 fans at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 7 to take in the big game. Raymond James Stadium holds 70,000 seats, but obviously with a pandemic going on, a full capacity Super Bowl is near impossible. 

Many fans are upset and confused that the Super Bowl is able to happen in Tampa with fans, but the Lightning and the Raptors (Tampa’s temporary NBA team) aren’t allowing fans. This is because the NFL does not have a policy against allowing a limited number of fans, while the NHL has not set a plan for allowing fans back in arenas yet this season. 

“Most arenas will not, at least in the initial part of the season, be able to host fans,” the NHL said in a statement to ESPN. 

The limited number of fans will impact the amount of money and traffic brought to the city, but there will be no shortage of fun and publicity. If Tampa is able to successfully pull off a great and safe Super Bowl experience, the city will receive a good amount of positive publicity from national media outlets and can influence tourists for the future when things are back to normal. 

One thing fans and people across Tampa will get to take in during Super Bowl week is the Super Bowl Experience. The Super Bowl experience extends from media row at Armature Works where CBS Sports will be stationed, all the way down the Tampa Riverwalk, through Julian B Lane and Curtis Hixon Parks, ending at the Tampa Convention Center and Yacht Village. 

At the Super Bowl Experience, fans will be able to participate in games such as the 40 yard dash, shop from NFL merchandise stands, virtually do meet and greets with NFL players and celebrities, take pictures with the Vince Lombardi Trophy, all while taking in the Tampa Riverwalk. 

On opening night, NFL fans from across the country came and attended all the events held throughout the riverwalk. An estimated 7,250 fans showed up on opening night of Friday Jan. 29. Booths filled with local food vendors and alcohol were major hits with fans. Fans were able to take photos with the Vince Lombardi Trophy and Julian B Lane Park and check out a custom locker from every team. Fans were also able to try on past Super Bowl Championship rings, run a 40 yard dash, attend virtual autograph sessions with players, and shop at the NFLShop merchandise vendors. 

There is no cost to attend but fans must download the NFL One Pass app and reserve a time to attend. The NFL is mandating some COVID-19 protocols such as enforcing masks, social distancing, and extra sanitization. The Super Bowl Experience kicks off on Friday Jan. 29 and extends all the way until Saturday, Feb. 6.

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