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Bucs seek delay in replacing video scoreboards at Raymond James Stadium

When Raymond James opened in 1998, the Tampa stadium’s scoreboard was considered to be largely the latest in technology. The scoreboard is now “archaic,” an official says.

ECTON THERIOT | Times

When Raymond James opened in 1998, the Tampa stadium’s scoreboard was considered to be largely the latest in technology. The scoreboard is now “archaic,” an official says.

TAMPA — Fans attending Tampa Bay Buccaneers games should soon be able to review replays on newer, sharper video scoreboards at Raymond James Stadium.

The Tampa Sports Authority, the governmental body that runs the stadium, has been prepared to make the switch since at least early last year and has been preparing for longer than that. But it's actually the Bucs asking them to hold off, Sports Authority officials say.

The team may want to go bigger and fancier on the scoreboards, and early indications are that the Bucs owners may be willing to pick up the cost difference if they opt to go that route, said one Sports Authority member.

"The Buccaneers want to make Raymond James a state-of-the-art facility, similar to what it was when it opened in 1998," said Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, who serves on the Sports Authority. "Candidly, our scoreboard is archaic. I believe the Bucs want to make it something beyond just another scoreboard."

What the Bucs have in mind is not clear. Attempts to get a comment from the football team, which is in the midst of replacing its coach and general manager, were not successful Thursday.

Sports Authority officials say they are confident that replacement of the stadium scoreboards will take place before Tampa hosts the college football national championship game in 2017. It was not a condition of landing the game, though it could be a factor in measuring Raymond James against stadiums vying to hold future Super Bowls, Hagan said.

Under the main lease agreement between the Sports Authority and the Bucs, the authority is obligated to keep Raymond James Stadium generally up to snuff with other NFL stadiums of roughly the same age.

"We don't have to be the absolute best in the country, nor should we be the worst," said Steve Anderson, general counsel to the Sports Authority, describing the spirit of the authority's obligations. "Included in that duty is to maintain the scoreboards in that same vein."

So the Sports Authority is in the midst of working on some $17.7 million in upgrades to Raymond James expected to be completed in the next two years, from replacing carpet and worn seat covers to light tower upgrades. Included in that work is roughly $6.4 million to replace the various video boards with new high-definition screens.

The money comes from a portion of the county's tourism tax, assessed to people who stay in hotels or other rented quarters.

When the stadium opened, it was equipped with what was considered at the time to be largely the latest in technology. Since then, scoreboards have evolved in much the same ways as home televisions.

"It's kind of like replacing a TV from the '80s with one from today," said Eric Hart, president and chief executive officer of the Sports Authority.

The Sports Authority requested and received bids early last year for new video boards. Sometime thereafter, the Bucs asked the authority to hold off on making a decision until the team has an opportunity to review the options. Officially, the team has said nothing about what it may have in mind and didn't Thursday.

In the meantime, the team has agreed to maintain existing video boards within the stadium, Hart said, which is not a cheap proposition because parts get harder to replace as those screens go out of vogue. Hagan said another good thing about the delay is it has pushed back the work to a time when tourist taxes are rebounding after a slump.

"That gives us more flexibility and buying capacity," Hagan said.

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Bill Varian can be reached at varian@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3387.

Bucs seek delay in replacing video scoreboards at Raymond James Stadium 01/02/14 [Last modified: Thursday, January 2, 2014 8:52pm]
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