TAMPA — In an effort to spur attendance in one of the NFL's most depressed markets, the Bucs announced sweeping changes Wednesday in the pricing and structure of the team's 2012 season tickets.
Prices on 80 percent of the seats at Raymond James Stadium will be reduced next season while others will remain flat for a fourth consecutive season, according to the team.
The team, citing feedback from fans, is taking steps to increase attendance at their home venue, where sales have been sluggish during the past several seasons. The team said fans requested more affordable prices in desirable seating locations.
General admission tickets for kids that currently sell for $17.50 will be reduced to $15, and some adult general admission tickets that currently cost $35 will be reduced to $30.
Discounts for season tickets versus individual games will be larger, in some cases as much as 45 percent (taking into account Ticketmaster processing fees). For instance, a family of four sitting in Section 310 — located in the upper deck and on the 50-yard line — would save nearly $1,500 by purchasing season tickets rather than buying single-game tickets.
Some lower-level end zone seats, which currently cost $89, will be reduced to $75 per game.
The team said it wanted to set a tone of inclusion, making the game-day experience seem less out-of-reach.
"Listening to our fans, the overwhelming recommendation they made is more value and more options between the most affordable seats and the most exclusive," Bucs co-chairman Ed Glazer said in a press release.
"For 2012, we sought to make lower-level seats more accessible to a greater number of people while also giving more fans than ever the chance to become season-pass members through a completely overhauled pricing system intended to offer something for everyone."
In addition to the reduced prices, there will be perks the team hopes will appeal to fans, including meet-and-greets with players, free wireless Internet access and exclusive events limited to club-seat purchasers.
The food and beverage discount offered to season-ticket holders will increase to 15 percent from 10 percent, and the 10-month payment plan returns for a second straight year.
It remains to be seen what the impact of the price reductions will be.
Chris Munzo of New Tampa, who attends several games per season, was encouraged by the news but doesn't view it as a cure-all for a team that hasn't won a playoff game since Super Bowl XXXVII in January 2003.
"The economy is tough all over," he said. "If other teams were experiencing these same problems (with attendance), then I think you could say that prices are the (only) problem. I mean, is the Pittsburgh area any bigger than Tampa?
"But cheaper ticket prices won't hurt. I'm glad they're making the effort. I'd also like to see them put the money into a couple of free agents, though."
The Bucs are in the midst of a season during which just two of nine home games (including the preseason) are expected to sell out.
That means local fans have been largely unable to watch home games because of the NFL's local television blackout policy, which prohibits home games from being televised in the local market when not sold out 72 hours before kickoff.
Tampa Bay was the only team to have all of its home games blacked out in 2010. This season, only October's Monday Night Football game against the Colts and the Dec. 17 game against the Cowboys have sold out.
Attendance at Raymond James Stadium dipped as low as 46,995 for a Sept. 25 game against the Falcons. The stadium has a capacity of 65,000.
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For the latest Bucs news go to tampabay.com/blogs/bucs.