By Jessie Tobin
A few lucky fans and spectators on Sunday, Oct. 4 were the first to witness Tom Brady wearing his trademark No. 12 on a Tampa Bay Buccaneers jersey. Around 6,000 fans socially distanced themselves in the stadium that normally would be packing 65,890 fans into seats to watch the Bucs win their first game back in Tampa against the Los Angeles Chargers.
The plan to allow fans back in to watch the game was announced on Saturday, Sept. 26. Only the longest-tenured season pass members were allowed to attend the second home game of this year. But games, of course, will not have the same environment that they use to have before the pandemic hit.
According to Raymond James Stadium’s website, there will be no tailgating allowed outside of the stadium, no recreational activities, and guests are expected to remain on their designated ticker seats at all times while in the stadium. All guests, 5 years of age and older, must be wearing a face mask at all times once they have entered the stadium. If a guest does not have a face mask or their mask breaks there will be one provided by the staff.
“The safety of all involved has been our No. 1 priority throughout this process,” said Bucs chief operating officer Brian Ford on the Bucs home website. “We have been working tirelessly with local and state authorities, as well as medical experts, to ensure a safe environment at the stadium.”
Before attending the games, each fan is required to take a survey called the “Bucs Fan Promise” prior to entering the stadium. According to the Bucs website, the Fan Health Promise contains an acceptance of the entry terms and a fan health promise.
“I would 100% go to a Bucs game to see Brady play,” said Bryce Benedict, a Tampa native and graduate finance student at The University of Tampa. “I don’t think the atmosphere is the same with the restricted attendance, [but] I think it’s good fans can go and watch, games aren’t the same without fans so it’s good to get back to the norm.”
The Bucs only had about a 25% capacity of fans at this recent home game and are hoping to more than double that to roughly 16,000 fans for the next home game.
Before, the Bucs planned to not have any fans return to the stadium until after the first two home games, meaning no fans until Sunday, Oct. 18.
“They want to go slower than anyone. So it’s not like they want to have full capacity,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis during a news conference on Friday, Sep. 25. “I think you can do much more than what’s been done. Outdoor transmission [of the coronavirus] has just not been a major factor.”
The announcement to allow fans back into Raymond James stadium came after the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup. On Wednesday, Sept. 30, Tampa fans who bought tickets ahead of time came to Raymond James Stadium to continue celebrating the Stanley Cup win. Instead of packing into Amalie Arena, more than 15,000 fans were able to spread out and stay in pods no bigger than six people at Raymond James.
According to Draftkings Nation, the National Football League (NFL) has not created a league wide policy on spectators. Instead, each individual team will create their own policies for their stadiums that align with their local health officials.