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Tampa stadium group supports new seats

Tampa stadium officials are trying to transform back support into fan support. The Tampa Sports Authority will add 6-inch-high aluminum planks to the backs of stadium seats. The 2-inch-thick planks will be placed about 12 inches up from the seat, said stadium director Rick Nafe.

The seats should be installed by August, Nafe said.

"It's always been something that the fans wanted," said Ross Bartow, director of administration for the Tampa Sports Authority administration.

The $510,000 cost of the back supports will come from a $6-million bond issue for stadium improvements, Nafe said. The authority bought the seats from Southern Bleachers in Graham, Texas.

Nafe said the stadium staff did its own in-depth comfort study.

"I personally covered the aspect of the larger fan," said Nafe, who is 6 feet 5 and weighs 280 pounds.

Officials looked at other kinds of seats. They rejected individual orange and blue seats that would have forced seated patrons to stand when others walked in front of them. They also rejected "gravity" seats that flip up but cost $2.4-million more than the planks.

The planks will eliminate vendors who have rented seat backs to fans in the past, Nafe said.

Nafe said he hopes the re-styled seats will make the stadium more competitive with the USF Sun Dome, the Orange Bowl in Miami and the Florida Suncoast Dome in St. Petersburg, which opens March 3. All three have seats with backs.

"In the interest of competition, we had to put in some creature comforts," Nafe said. "The more comfortable the fans are, the more fans will come."

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