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Improvements planned for Raymond James Stadium

SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times (01/27/2009 Tampa, FL ) Aerial of Raymond James Stadium ready for the 2009 Super Bowl in Tampa.
SKIP O'ROURKE | Times (01/27/2009 Tampa, FL ) Aerial of Raymond James Stadium ready for the 2009 Super Bowl in Tampa.
Published Jul. 21, 2015

TAMPA — The home of the Bucs is preparing for an extreme makeover and Hillsborough County officials hope to finalize an agreement on enhancements at Raymond James Stadium that would include everything from new video scoreboards to seat cushions.

"We've been in negotiations for weeks back and forth with the Bucs and trying to finalize a deal and we're optimistic a renovation agreement can be reached in the near future," County Commissioner Ken Hagan said Monday.

In the meantime, the Tampa Sports Authority will present more than $25 million in capital improvements to its finance committee today as part of its agreement with the team.

Improvements to Raymond James Stadium, the home of the Bucs and the USF football team, were pledged as a part of a bid that landed the January 2017 college football title game for Tampa.

The project would also greatly aide Tampa Bay's bid for the 2019 or 2020 Super Bowl. The NFL announced in May that the city is a finalist along with Atlanta, Miami and New Orleans.

"We're making a lot of progress and I think they're down to some last items and going over a few things and we're hopeful to get some sort of resolution quickly," TSA president Eric Hart said.

"We're encouraged we will get somewhere. We're having good discussions and open dialogue and it's down to where it's sitting in the team's hands right now."

The finance committee will discuss the TSA's stadium renovation agreement for capital projects totaling $25,303,775. Highlights of the TSA's capital improvements include:

• $6.491 million to install new high definition video boards, scoreboards and ribbon boards as well as renovating the control room with HD equipment.

• $4.49 million to purchase new televisions in suites and other public spaces, including concourses.

• $1.949 million to replace all roofing with the exception of the sideline.

• $2.3 million to replace all loose furnishings in upper and lower suites.

• More than $4.2 million to replace central station air handlers and centrifugal chillers.

"Truly, the dollars that are identified to the finance committee are obligations we have in the contract," Hart said.

But the Bucs, TSA and county officials hope to reach an agreement soon on significant enhancements to RJS that will enable Tampa Bay to compete for Super Bowls and other national events.

Landing a Super Bowl is always a battle of facilities — Atlanta will have its Falcons in a new $1.5 billion stadium in 2017, making it a favorite for one of the two games being awarded. The Dolphins just finished a $350 million renovation to Sun Life Stadium, and the Superdome in New Orleans got $320 million in renovations in 2006 after damage from Hurricane Katrina.

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"Really, we only have an amount of several weeks when we have to begin making improvements to the stadium to ensure in advance of the college football national championship game," Hagan said. "We don't have the luxury to wait much longer and those sentiments been passed on to the Bucs.

"If we're the least bit interested in having work class events, Super Bowl events and national championships, we need these enhancements."

New technology to aid Bucs practices

The Bucs announced that they have signed on with a virtual-reality simulator to supplement the onfield practice players will get in preparing for opponents this season.

The Bucs said they will be the first NFL team to introduce virtual reality — the "SIDEKIQ" simulator from Eon Sports VR, a Kansas City-based company — at the youth football level by including sessions at their "Cannonfire QB Clinic," which will be Saturday at Skyway Park in Tampa.

"We are excited to be coming in on the front end of this new wave of technology that is designed to supplement the on-field and classroom work that our quarterbacks are already doing," general manager Jason Licht said in a statement.

The "SIDEKIQ" is a portable headset that allows teams to input their playbook and opponents' schemes to create either game scenarios or practice drills.

CARDINALS: Five-time Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson will be the franchise's 15th Ring of Honor inductee.

Titans: Receiver Justin Hunter was charged Monday with felonious assault after a large fight July 3 at a bar in an oceanfront tourist area and is being held without bond in Virginia Beach.

Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report, which used information from Times wires.

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