TAMPA — Leonard Levy, a local sports pioneer who was instrumental in bringing the Bucs and several Super Bowls to Tampa, died Thursday while in hospice care. He was 89.
Levy headed up Tampa Bay’s expansion committee in the early 1970s and was extremely instrumental in bringing the expansion Bucs to the area to begin play in 1976. In addition, he ran the Super Bowl committee in the 1980s and Tampa Bay was awarded Super Bowl 18, which it hosted at Tampa Stadium at the end of the 1984 NFL season.
“It is with a heavy heart that I announce that my husband, J. Leonard Levy, passed away this afternoon at 2:30 p.m.,” Levy’s wife, Pat, said in a statement. “Leonard was a friend to many professional sports team owners, the father of the NFL franchise here in Tampa and the driving force behind getting the first Super Bowl in Tampa in 1984. We will miss him dearly.”
When NFL owners met in Detroit on June 3, 1981, five cities were vying for Super Bowl 18 in 1984: Tampa; Pasadena, Calif.; Dallas; Miami; and New Orleans.
Levy used 14:30 of his 15-minute allotment for a presentation. And when NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle emerged from the room a couple of hours later, Tampa Bay had officially become the sixth market to win a Super Bowl bid.
“LA. New Orleans. Miami. Tampa? How does that happen,” Levy joked years later.
Levy also enjoyed a close relationship with Bucs ownership, from Hugh Culverhouse to the Glazer family, which owns the team today.
“We are deeply saddened at the news of Leonard Levy’s passing this afternoon,” the Glazer family said in a statement. “Leonard was one of the most influential and important figures in the development and growth of professional sports in the Tampa Bay area. Leonard’s passion, foresight and determination were critical to Tampa’s emergence on the professional sports scene dating back to the early 1970s and the birth of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Our condolences go out to his wife Pat and the entire Levy family.”
Times sports columnist John Romano contributed to this report.
• • •
Sign up for the Bucs RedZone newsletter to get updates and analysis on the latest team and NFL news from Bucs beat writer Joey Knight.