Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) expressed his displeasure last week at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers decision to play at least their first two home games without fans in attendance. The franchise announced it would be be holding off on allowing fans to enter Raymond James Stadium last Wednesday.
“I really want to show that Tampa is going to be a great place to host the Super Bowl,” DeSantis said following the Bucs’ announcement. “Showing this community is ready to host a great Super Bowl, having some fans there would’ve been a good first step. It’s not where we need to be.”
Miami and Jacksonville, the state’s other two resident NFL franchises, are allowing fans in limited capacity as the season opens. Miami is allowing up to 13,000 fans for its home opener on September 20th, while Jacksonville is allowing up to approximately 17,000. Tampa Bay is among the 25 franchises that are keeping doors closed, as the season kicks off due to COVID-19.
“Based on our conversations with local officials, we have determined that it is not yet the right time to welcome fans back to Raymond James Stadium,” said Brian Ford, Buccaneers COO.
Tampa Bay enters the year with high excitement for its prospects, with the addition of Tom Brady at quarterback and tight end Rob Gronkowski, both formerly of New England Patriots championship fame. Tickets for their home games had been in high demand as the season went on sale in the spring, only to see those early orders wiped out when the team cancelled all existing sales in July in order to plan for a socially-distant seating plan due to the pandemic.
For at least two home dates this fall, that seating plan will remain empty, though the governor hopes that will change soon as the area ramps up its plans to host Super Bowl LV in February 2021.
“I told the Bucs that whatever support you need from me you will have it to be able to do it,” he said.