What can the Tampa Bay Buccaneers do to enhance the in-stadium game experience? Patrolling the grounds at a recent preseason game, we came up with five ideas. — Jay Cridlin [email protected]
• Tour the Trop. No, really. Tropicana Field, the much-maligned home of the Tampa Bay Rays, is full of unique shops, museums, quirky experiences (like a cownose ray touch tank) and play areas for kids. Raymond James Stadium may be a stunning football facility, but much of what makes it suitable for Super Bowls, Joe Sixpack can't see from the cheap seats. Beyond the two giant patios behind either end zone — giant bars, essentially — the guts of Raymond James Stadium have all the ambience of a municipal parking garage. The Bucs could stand to warm-'n'-fuzzify things just a tad. A football-oriented activity area for kids, not unlike the Super Bowl's NFL Experience, would be a great start.
• Keep things cool. One early-season Sunday in the RayJay parking lots should be enough to convince any Tampa Bay resident that an open-air stadium is not in the Rays' best interest. An area where tailgaters can cool down — be it a shaded pavilion, misting station or simply a tent filled with sponsors — would be a godsend.
• Replay in the palm of your hand. The Bucs this season will begin showing more in-game replays on their BucVision scoreboard, including "under the hood" views during official replays. But teams like the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens are going a step further by rolling out an app allowing fans to stream in-game replays of every down. The Bucs' new mobile app promises exclusive in-stadium content on game days — maybe replays are in play? As for the BucVision scoreboard itself — that could use a high-def upgrade, too. But one thing at a time.
• Open up the pirate ship. It's one of the signature elements of any NFL stadium, and still, fans have no idea how to board the end-zone pirate ship. During games, it's staffed by volunteers from MacDill Air Force Base who fire the cannons, raise flags and more. The team also invites up to around 100 guests onboard for each game. That's all well and good, but we'd suggest opening it up to fans until, say, an hour before kickoff. That way, diehard fans can cross walking the plank off their bucket list.
• Better beer. In the NFL, corporate sponsorship is like blood brotherhood, and that's not about to change any time soon. Bud Light for all! But would it kill the Bucs to make Cigar City Beer, which is brewed less than a mile and a half away, available somewhere inside the stadium? It's widely available at Tropicana Field, for example. And the Bucs have already started bringing in local food vendors like Holy Hog Barbecue and Pipo's Cuban Cafe. Our pitch: Hire Cigar City to brew a limited-edition beer that's only available at the pirate ship. Make it a pale ale with notes of spiced rum and vanilla, and call it Cigar City Pirate's Grog. Drink up, ye hearties.