When the Glazer family purchased the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1995 for $192 million, talk immediately turned to getting the team a new stadium to play in. The old Houlihan's Stadium, aka The Big Sombrero, was simply outdated, uncomfortable and lacked the luxury suites needed to bring in a big stream of revenue for the team.
After a contentious battle over how to pay for it, the new stadium finally opened on Sept. 20, 1998, ushering in a new era of Tampa Bay Buccaneers prosperity. (The Bucs won the game over Chicago with a huge comeback.)
In addition to being the home of the Bucs, the stadium also is home field for the University of South Florida Bulls, and it hosts the Outback Bowl every New Year's Day. Major touring acts like Kenny Chesney and U2 have played at RayJay, and it regularly hosts Monster Jam truck events.
The stadium has these features that consistently earn it praise as a premier sports venue:
-- The pirate ship in the end zone. The same company that produces props for Walt Disney World created the ship, which comes to life when the Bucs enter the red zone with a burst of cannon fire. The ship's cannons fire seven times to signal a touchdown and three to announce a field goal. Oh, and don't forget the T-shirts that are fired off the ship into the crowd. The pirate ship is an authentic replica of an early 1800s pirate ship and measures 103 feet long with huge 32- by 50-foot sails.
-- The jumbo screen. Operated by more than 30 technicians at Raymond James Stadium, BucVision allowed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to become the first professional team in any sport to show images through high-definition television (HDTV). The main attraction of BucVision is the size of the two videoboards, each measuring 24 feet tall by 92 feet wide, which is significantly larger than conventional NFL scoring systems (although not nearly as ginormous as the one in the new Cowboys stadium).
The venue has twice hosted the Super Bowl: Super Bowl XXXV on Jan. 28, 2001, in which the Baltimore Ravens defeated the New York Giants 34-7, and Super Bowl XLIII on Feb. 1, 2009, in which the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals 27-24.
The stadium is open Tuesday-Thursday for tours for a nominal fee.