TAMPA — Bucs and USF officials confirmed Tuesday their respective teams likely will host fewer than 16,000 fans for their upcoming games at Raymond James Stadium, starting with the Bucs' contest Sunday against the Chargers.
A similar crowd will be admitted for the Lightning’s Stanley Cup celebration at the stadium Wednesday evening. For now, tailgating won’t be permitted at any stadium event.
Those announcements were part of an online presentation detailing the extensive precautionary measures taken to keep the 22-year-old stadium functional and safe during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Details can be found on the Tampa Sports Authority and Buccaneers websites.
“You’re going to see social distancing throughout the venue, improved sanitation and sterilization,” said sports authority president and CEO Eric Hart, whose group operates the stadium. “We’re going touchless this year. We will be requiring facemasks at all times throughout the venue, and we will be going to a no-bag policy.”
The seating capacities were determined in accordance with CDC guidelines, Bucs chief operating officer Brian Ford said. Longtime season-ticket members have been given first purchase priority, based on their tenure as ticket holders. Each may purchase up to six tickets and will be seated in pods of no more than six.
“Outside of each of those pods, the seats will be secured in a way that they won’t be able to be used,” Ford said. “They’ll be tie-strapped up.”
Based on those restrictions, Ford said he estimates having “roughly under 10,000” fans for the Chargers game, based on how many tickets the most-tenured fans redeem.
“And then we’ll be bringing it up to the full CDC guideline compliance with 6-foot (distancing) and full manifest under a CDC standpoint,” Ford said. “And that will be closer to 16,000 — about 25 percent (stadium capacity).”
USF athletic director Michael Kelly said his program will operate under the same guidelines, estimating roughly 14,000 fans in the bowl-seating area for Bulls games. Though the university ultimately will decide whether to allow fans for each of USF’s remaining four home contests, Kelly said his department is preparing to have fans for the Oct. 10 game against East Carolina.
No fans were permitted for the Bulls' season opener against the Citadel on Sept. 12.
“We’ve sold tickets under that premise that we can be prepared to (host fans) in the pod system that’s been out there,” Kelly said.
Regardless of which team is playing, the venue plans a cashless and touchless experience for now, with 100-percent mobile ticketing, Ford said.
Refreshment hawkers won’t roam the seating sections selling beer or food, and all concession items will be single-use products, meaning no refillable soda or popcorn containers. Entertainment will be staged in designated stadium areas and not on the field.
Additionally, more than 775 hand sanitizers have been set up throughout the venue and parking lot. Even recreational activities, such as tossing footballs in the parking lot, are prohibited for now “because we’re asking for patrons to arrive and come to the game,” Hart said.
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“When I look at colleges around the country and all the different venues that are sometimes older and more antiquated and may not have the experts involved that we do,” Kelly said, “I feel very comfortable and confident saying that our fans at Raymond James Stadium will truly be able to have probably the most comfortable and safest experience in college football as it relates to all the adjustments made to (COVID-19).”