TAMPA — The Bucs plan to have reduced seating capacity at Raymond James Stadium and two Power Five conferences announced they will not play college football in the fall this season. But the NFL expects to host Super Bowl 55 on Feb. 7 in Tampa as planned.
NFL executive vice president Peter O’Reilly said Tuesday, however, the league recognizes that during the COVID-19 pandemic it will need to be “flexible and adaptable.”
“We’re very confident in our protocols and are very focused on a Super Bowl and a season that ends on Feb. 7 and starts and ends as scheduled,” O’Reilly said during a virtual news conference with the Super Bowl 55 host committee. ... (We’re) laser focused on Feb. 7.”
O’Reilly participated in the unveiling of the Super Bowl 55 Experience that will span 2.7 miles on the Tampa Riverwalk and provide the first all-outdoor venue for the event that is free to fans. Housed at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park, it marks the first time the NFL’s football theme park is a partnership between the league and the host committee.
“That’s really where the heart of this NFL theme park comes to life,” O’Reilly said. “Where fans can meet players and legends, Hall of Famers, get autographs, get their picture taken with the Vince Lombardi Trophy, the trophy that all 32 clubs are looking to hoist in Tampa come Super Bowl 55 and immerse themselves in so many different activities … such a beautiful park.”
Details on how to reserve free tickets to the Super Bowl Experience will be announced at a later date, but fans can sign up for more information at NFL.com/TampaSB.
Other parks, like Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, will feature music and entertainment, local food and beverage and interactive zones for fitness, including flag football.
The NFL and the host committee also announced a $2 million commitment to the Tampa Bay community via the NFL Foundation. There are six pillars the donation will focus on: early childhood education, food insecurity, families (unsheltered, at-risk, veterans), health and wellness, sustainability and systemic justice.
“To me, the Super Bowl provides an amazing platform on the grandest of stages to leave an everlasting impact on our community long after the confetti settles,” said former Bucs linebacker and Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks, co-chairman of the host committee.
Brooks said the charitable initiative will spread money among a variety of social service providers. He mentioned free breakfast services, health and fitness programs and poverty-alleviating efforts for 55 families in honor of the 55th Super Bowl.
The $2 million commitment is split evenly between the host committee and the NFL. The host committee’s contribution toward the social legacy initiative is funded totally by private partners and not from any public funding, said Rob Higgins, chairman of the host committee.
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On Tuesday, Brooks urged unity and said it was a high priority for him that the social legacy money be spent inclusively and equitably. A portion of the contracts will be awarded to minority and women-owned businesses through Business Connect, the NFL’s special event supplier diversity and inclusion program, Higgins said.
This is the fifth Super Bowl that Tampa Bay has hosted (also Jan. 22, 1984; Jan. 27, 1991; Jan. 28, 2001 and Feb. 1, 2009).. The last two were notable for occurring during a time of national crisis. But Super Bowl 55 may be the most challenging one the NFL has attempted to hold.
On Tuesday, the Big Ten and the Pac-12 conferences announced they will not play sports in the fall, including football.
“Whether it was in 1991 during the Gulf War or 2009 during the recession, our community steps up when it needs to step up most,” Higgins said. “And there’s no doubt, the last few months have been really challenging and our partnership with the NFL has never been stronger and we’re ready for the challenge ahead.
“If there needs to be adjustments, we’ll be ready to make them. At this point in time, there haven’t been any adjustments. We just continue to plan. And through our great partnership with the NFL, we’ll continue to stay joined at the hip with them and be ready to be as nimble as we need to be.”