With Tom Brady in the fold, will Bucs fill up Raymond James?

Bucs fans and non-Bucs fans alike are excited to see the GOAT play in person in Tampa. Even if some will pay 15 percent more than others.
Tom Brady's most-recent appearance at Raymond James on Oct. 5, 2017, drew 64,476 fans, which was the Bucs' largest home crowd of that season.
Tom Brady's most-recent appearance at Raymond James on Oct. 5, 2017, drew 64,476 fans, which was the Bucs' largest home crowd of that season. [ Times ]
Published Mar. 20, 2020|Updated Mar. 21, 2020

TAMPA — Mark Giardino doesn’t consider himself a Bucs fan, but he was one of thousands of people who flocked to Ticketmaster’s website to buy season tickets after hearing Tuesday that Tom Brady is coming to Tampa Bay.

The Thonotosassa native and current Palm Harbor resident, 26, has been to only two Bucs games at Raymond James Stadium. He’s a Giants fan, an allegiance formed because his father is from New York.

But with Brady onboard, Giardino purchased Bucs season tickets Tuesday night, three seats in Section 228 for him, his brother and a friend. A home schedule that includes some elite quarterback matchups with Brady facing the Saints and Drew Brees, the Packers and Aaron Rodgers, and the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes was enough to sell Giardino quickly, calling it a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience.

“It’s crazy because you get the chance to see four Hall of Fame quarterbacks,” Giardino said. “It’s pretty wild. … We haven’t really seen many good Bucs teams except for 2002 (the Super Bowl-winning season), so I think it’s a great opportunity.”

Related: Why Tom Brady's jersey hangs in this former Rays' house

The Brady effect was immediate Tuesday night. Within an hour of news that Brady was heading to Tampa Bay, the queue on Ticketmaster’s Bucs season ticket landing page was nearly 7,000 deep. The Bucs don’t release their season ticket numbers, but they acknowledged that they had an unprecedented amount of traffic on Ticketmaster that evening.

The Bucs raised season ticket prices for new buyers about 15 percent this week. They would not say whether that was related to the Brady news, but for the past three seasons, they have used some form of dynamic pricing, in which prices are determined by demand, with games designated as premier costing a premium.

Interest in the Bucs on the third-party ticket market grew as well this week.

Andrew Gretchko, a digital public relations specialist for Vivid Seats, said the website’s Bucs page ranked first among NFL teams and third on the entire site in traffic Tuesday and Wednesday. The site’s Bucs landing page saw a 4,540 percent increase in traffic Tuesday compared to the same date last year.

Last season the Bucs ranked 30th of the NFL’s 32 teams in home attendance, averaging 51,898 a game. When Brady last appeared at Raymond James Stadium in 2017 with the Patriots, the game drew 64,476, the Bucs’ largest home crowd that season.

Related: Tom Brady won't be a bad fit for the Bucs' offense

Tyler Lewis, 25, grew up in Largo and graduated from USF before moving to Washington. His family is moving away from the bay area as well, but once he heard Brady was coming to Tampa, he told his girlfriend they have to get back to Tampa for a game.

“I remember a lot of bad years with the Bucs,” Lewis said. “I’m definitely going to have to come back to see Brady play. Things like this don’t happen too often, not only getting to see the greatest quarterback of all time play, but play for your team. I want to be able to tell my kids, ‘Remember those two fluky years when Tom Brady played in Tampa? I was there for that.’ ”

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Brady’s two-year, $50 million deal was announced Friday.

North Tampa resident Kirby Jones, 31, said that for longtime Bucs fans like him, Brady’s acquisition feels like the second-best moment in team history after winning the Super Bowl.

“But me and a few of my buddies, we’ve been plotting for the past few days which games we want to attend,” he said. “They’re going to be in very high demand.

“I just hope it goes good because something we haven’t been able to have against teams like the Packers or the Giants is homefield advantage because (fans of those teams) travel and they fill up the stadium. I think this will be a big turn in that with Brady being here. I’m already waiting on a jersey. I’m excited.”

Jones is also a fan of Jameis Winston — and Florida State — but would choose Brady over Winston, who will move on from the Bucs as a free agent with Brady’s signing.

“I like Jameis Winston, and I was pulling for giving him another year,” Jones said. “I didn’t want Teddy Bridgewater or anyone like that. But if you have the chance to sign Tom Brady, you sign Tom Brady. There ain’t nothing else about it. Even if it’s Drew Brees or Tom Brady, it’s Tom Brady. It’d be nice to have Drew Brees, but it’s Tom Brady.”

Related: Bucs don't need Tom Brady to be a passing savior, just the anti-Jameis

Recent Florida State graduate Alec Hyre, a Bucs fan living in Tallahassee, has also been a Winston fan throughout the quarterback’s college and pro careers. He attended Winston’s first Bucs home game in 2015 and plans to attend at least attend one game and “probably more” now that the Bucs have Brady.

“One of the happiest days of my life was when the Bucs drafted Jameis (first overall in 2015),” Hyre, 24, said. “I had visions of Jamies going to Canton (Pro Football Hall of Fame) as a Buc. It’s tough (to lose him), but at the same time, Tom Brady is Tom Brady. I will also root for Jameis, but at the same time I want the Bucs to do as well as possible. Wherever Jameis ends up, I’m going to root for him.

“I’m also a Rays fan, too, and being a Rays fan has taught you that you shouldn’t get too attached to players. If you’re going to be a Rays fan, you better be a fan of the team first. So I’m kind of taking that approach here. Tom is not only going to be a better option for us, but he’s going to mentor the young guys. He makes everyone in the building better.”

As for Giardino, he’s still a Giants fan. When the Bucs play at MetLife Stadium next season, he will be rooting for the Giants. But he admitted he’s considering buying some Bucs gear. Official jerseys were available online Friday.

“With the Bucs, that’s the one thing that they’ve never really had in their entire franchise history … a good quarterback,” he said. “Even when they won the Super Bowl, it wasn’t because of their quarterback. It was more because of their defense and stuff. It’s pretty cool.”