TAMPA — For the first time in eight years, the Bucs are raising season ticket prices, with an average increase of about 24 percent for next season at Raymond James Stadium.
The team sent an email to season-ticket holders Wednesday announcing the changes.
The Bucs — who had the second-most expensive average ticket in the NFL in 2008 after their last change — were second lowest in 2015 with an average price of $62.35. The average next season will increase to $77.30, still in the bottom third of the NFL.
"We are one of only two (NFL) clubs that have not raised prices over the past eight years in an effort to offer our fans the greatest possible value," Bucs chief operating officer Brian Ford said in a statement. The Raiders were the only other team without an increase.
"As a result, in 2015 our average general ticket price ranked as the second-lowest in the league," Ford said. "In 2016, we will continue to offer some of the NFL's lowest-priced tickets."
Prices of club-level tickets and half the end zone seats won't change. But the cheapest season tickets — $30 a game this season — will start at $40, for an increase of $100 per season ticket over 10 games. Raymond James Stadium had 6 1/2 sections at the lowest price point for 2015. Next season it will have two, which amounts to 5,200 seats.
Though the Bucs haven't announced pricing for single-game tickets, they are likely to have a comparable increase.
Fan reaction was mixed. In a Tampa Bay Times Twitter poll asking fans about the increase, 46 percent of 226 respondents by Wednesday night said they were "fine with it." Thirty percent said they would attend fewer games. Twenty-four percent said they were unsure about how they felt.
Tony Cacace, who has had season tickets on and off for 15 years and flies down from New Castle, Del., to see games, said he had been warned by his ticket representative that increases were coming and he didn't mind them. His lower-level tickets are increasing from $99 to $115 per game, but seats in the middle sideline sections went up from $99 to $125 per game, and he had been surprised his seats were the same price as the middle-section ones before the change.
The Bucs, the eighth team to announce a price increase for 2016, haven't been to the playoffs since 2007 and haven't won a playoff game since the Super Bowl in January 2003. The ticket-price increase comes after they have gone 3-13 at home in the past two seasons.
Since 2008, the Bucs' average general ticket price had dropped by 25.6 percent while the NFL average had risen 19.6 percent.
One quirk of the new pricing plan is the front-row seats in 16 upper-level sections are now more expensive than the rest of their sections, by $11 to $18 per game. Jeff Yates, 46, a season-ticket holder from Lexington, S.C., said his four season tickets in the second row were increasing from $40 a game to $45, but if he wanted to move up to the front row, it would cost $56 per game, something he's considering.
"I probably would like to see one more year of a trend going up for the Bucs before they increase the prices," Yates said. "At the same time, I understand they haven't increased prices for eight years. I'm kind of okay with it, though I'd like to see improvement first."
Daniel Claridge, 21, of Land O'Lakes was a first-time season-ticket holder with his fiancee this season and said the increase for his upper-level seat, from $50 to $55 a game, was enough to make them decide not to renew. It was something they already had been considering.
With excitement around quarterback Jameis Winston and a better record this season, 6-10, Tampa Bay's home attendance rose for the third year in a row, finishing the 2015 season with an announced average of 61,560, a six-year high.
The Bucs' ranking in attendance among the league's 32 teams improved to 26th, its best ranking since 2008.
In the eight seasons since the Bucs' last ticket increase, they have a 45-83 record and no playoff berths. In the eight seasons before the last increase, the Bucs were 67-61 with five playoff berths and a Super Bowl win.
Average attendance dropped off significantly from the 2009 season (62,991) to 2010 (49,314), but it has steadily risen since. Raymond James Stadium will have major renovations done to the video boards and sound systems before next season, with about $100 million in improvements scheduled to be done by the 2017 season.
The cost for those upgrades will be shared by the Bucs, Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa. Some of the improvements were pledged in the bid that will bring college football's national championship game to Raymond James Stadium next January.
The Bucs are still offering tickets at half price for children 16 and younger, and being a season-ticket holder includes membership to exclusive events such as draft parties and access to preseason practices.
"The excitement, energy and passion displayed by Buccaneers fans over the years have turned Raymond James Stadium into one of the nation's premier sports venues," Ford said. "As we continue to enhance the in-game experience, it is also essential that we remain competitive from a pricing standpoint while still providing our fans with some of the most affordable tickets in the NFL."
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.