TAMPA — Fans and event staff may feel safer attending USF and Bucs games at Raymond James Stadium this fall. Approximately $10.4 million in federal funding has been approved for upgrades to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.
More than 40 modifications — everything from touch-free toilets and sinks, hand-sanitizing stations and removable seat bottoms to assure social distancing — for use by the Tampa Sports Authority are awaiting a vote by the Hillsborough County Commission on Wednesday.
Funded by the government’s CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act, the first of three phases should be completed by Oct. 31 “in order to be open to the public,” according to an agenda for Wednesday’s meeting.
The Bucs are currently scheduled to play a preseason game at Raymond James on Aug. 22 and the regular-season home opener is set for Sept. 20 against the Panthers. USF’s first home game is Sept. 12 vs. Bethune Cookman. Super Bowl 55 will also be held at the venue on Feb. 7.
Some NFL teams already have announced that they plan to play with some fans in their stadiums. The Baltimore Ravens want to limit attendance to 14,000 at M&T Bank Stadium. The Jacksonville Jaguars have said they will fill 25 percent of capacity at TIAA Bank Field, which normally holds 67,000-plus.
The Bucs and USF have not revealed their seating plans for 2020 ticket holders.
From the moment fans arrive at Raymond James Stadium, they should notice the safety upgrades. A public address system ($250,000) will be used in parking lots for “announcements to fans on which group(s) can come to their gates at the assigned times.”
Touchscreen ticket scanners ($502,475) for entry gates “will both reduce the number of staff required and the proximity which a staff must stand to the attendees.” Fans will have their temperatures checked by thermometers ($20,000) at all gates and entries.
Fans will find portable wash stations ($480,000) located in parking lots, gates, plaza and concourses. Public restrooms will be retrofitted with touch-free toilets and urinal flush valves.
In Phase 2, the press box will be modified to make booths larger for social distancing along with “the build out of temporary booths within the stadium bowl or pedestrian ramps ($550,000).”
In Phase 3, entry gates A-D, as well as the east and west clubs, media, plaza check point and entrance will be reconfigured and include canopies ($825,000).
The stadium measures already have been recommended for approval by the commission’s staff. The Bucs are expected to unveil their ticket policy and seating capacity later this week.