It hasn’t been an unusual sight for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to face rows of empty seats while playing in Raymond James Stadium over the past decade or so. With the arrival of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, the excitement surrounding the team entering 2020 should lead to more ‘butts in seats’, but the current state of public health threatens the very existence of fans in the stadium moving forward.
As we moved into the month of July, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reported on the fact the team’s website is no longer selling tickets. Included in his report was a quote from Bucs’ chief operation officer Brian Ford essentially telling fans of the team to be ready for anything.
Stroud also reported NFL owners voted recently to allow teams the option of covering up to eight rows in the front of where fans would normally sit. A provision some may take in order to put as much space between fans and players in an attempt to prevent potentially sick fans from infecting the teams.
When I survey my memory of NFL stadiums I’ve seen in person, Soldier Field in Chicago has to be the smallest. Of course, this makes sense as it is in fact one of the smallest stadiums in the NFL, currently.
The stadium presents a cozy environment where fans feel like they’re almost in the middle of the action. Which is great when you’re not worried about a worldwide pandemic which has been back on the rise in the United States recently. So I can’t imagine the Bears wouldn’t be a team taking advantage of the opportunity to tarp off the first rows of their stadium for 2020.
Raymond James Stadium is bigger than Soldier Field, but it’s still smaller than most of the NFL’s playing venues. So it seems to reason, the Bucs might take advantage as well.
What happens then? To the season pass holders in those rows, to those trying to buy tickets in general; what happens to them? This is something the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to have to deal with, and until the matter is resolved, fans hoping to get a glimpse of this hype-heavy squad will have to wait and see what happens.
Back to the Bears for a moment. According to payments.com, the Chicago franchise is offering their season ticket holders the opportunity for a refund on their 2020 packages, while retaining the option to renew in 2021.
In a letter from the team, the Bears stated, “Our hope is to build a model that provides the opportunity to see the Bears play this fall to as many season ticket holders as possible. We will communicate your options as soon as a plan is finalized.”
As NFL owners, and the league in general continues to formulate its response to public health concerns, fans are also left on the hook waiting to see what will come of their opportunities to see their favorite teams in person.
If the Bears are any indication of what NFL teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might do, securing the best opportunities for live games in 2020 should also come with some securities for those inconvenienced when 2021 rolls around.