TAMPA — Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer on Friday offered a frank assessment of the pace of ticket sales and was surprisingly candid about the economy's significant impact on the club.
Glazer said the Bucs have seen an uptick in sales since adding tiers of ticket prices, including $25 youth general admission. Still, sales remain sluggish because of the region's slow economic recovery, he said.
"Obviously we're aware of the tough economy out there, and we've lowered ticket prices to try to make something affordable for all those fans," Glazer said after a Tampa Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
"We've had increased ticket sales, obviously, but it's a very rough time in the economy for all of us. Statistics have shown in the last five years, of all the NFL markets, this market has been hit by far the worst. It went from about 4 percent to 13 percent unemployment. That's the biggest jump in any NFL city."
Glazer was citing NFL data that said Tampa had a 9.3 percent increase in unemployment during the past five years and that is the largest in the league.
He again warned of possible local television blackouts, which are implemented when home games do not sell out.
"I would expect that there will be some (blackouts)," he said. "I think in the beginning of the season it's very possible. I think people will come together as we hope and start to see the winning football and want to come more and more. But we are understanding of the economy and (that) our fans have to make choices and they have to make choices that are best for themselves.
"If they want to stay home and watch the games on TV or come out to (free) events like FanFest, we understand. They're Bucs fans regardless of whether they come to our games or not."
Glazer reiterated that the team's financial health is "just fine."
Turning to another topic, Glazer expressed unequivocal support for an 18-game regular season, an idea that is gaining momentum. The issue likely will be taken up in the upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations. "We don't need four preseason games," Glazer said. "And as an owner, we don't want you to have to pay for two preseason games at home."
During the luncheon's question-and-answer session, Glazer was asked about his hopes for the 2010 Bucs given last year's 3-13 season.
"When we first purchased the team, we had a philosophy," he said. "We wanted to build a team that was going to be good for the long haul, not one year good, one year bad. We sat down with (then-coach) Tony Dungy. We said, 'We're going to lose some games, but in order to win long term, do what you need to do.' And he did that."
Then Glazer turned his attention to what went wrong in the latter years of former coach Jon Gruden's tenure. He and general manager Bruce Allen were replaced by Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik, respectively, in January 2009.
"I think for a couple years after that, we started to lose our way," Glazer said. "I take responsibility for that. But when we brought these guys in (Dominik and Morris), they understood the plan and how we wanted to build this team. … Building a long-term, successful, Super Bowl-winning team is painful at times, but the ride is fun."
COMINGS, GOINGS: The Bucs signed two seventh-round draft picks to four-year contracts. Linebacker Dekoda Watson from FSU and defensive end Erik Lorig from Stanford became the fourth and fifth members of the rookie class to sign. Four rookies — Gerald McCoy, Brian Price, Arrelious Benn and Cody Grimm — remain unsigned.
Watson's signing led to linebacker Angelo Crowell's release, a mild surprise given the team's decision to re-sign him in March and its hopes that he could compete for playing time at outside linebacker. Though signed twice by the team in two years, Crowell leaves having not played a down for the Buccaneers. He spent 2009 on injured reserve.
Also, safety Emanuel Cook and long snapper Chris Mauriello were released.