TAMPA — Raymond James Stadium is getting a face lift soon. The questions are how vast and who pays.
Improvements to the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were pledged as part of a bid that landed the January 2017 college football playoff title game for Tampa. They also would enhance bids for the 2019 or 2020 Super Bowl. The city is a finalist, the NFL announced Wednesday, along with Atlanta, Miami and New Orleans.
The stadium likely will get new video boards and other enhancements as part of a deal being negotiated between the team, Hillsborough County and the Tampa Sports Authority.
County Commissioner Ken Hagan thinks the answers could come within a month.
"Absolutely," Hagan said. "For the past several months, (they) have been at the negotiating table going back and forth. January 2017 is not that far away. That window is narrowing. We're hopeful to have an agreement and a plan here in weeks."
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.
"The Tampa Bay community has a proven track record as a great Super Bowl host," Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer said in a statement. "We are thrilled to be a finalist for the Super Bowls in 2019 and 2020, and we look forward to the opportunity to show how well our communities work together to put on a great event."
How much would Raymond James' overall face lift cost? That's still being negotiated, with the county, the TSA and the Bucs willing to share in the investment.
"The uncertainty lies in the level and degree of improvement. To use an example, is it Rooms to Go or is it Ethan Allen?" Hagan said. "That's kind of where we are negotiating with the Buccaneers in determining the level of improvements and their commitment and financial involvement in these improvements. They've indicated a willingness to contribute to the overall upgrades to the facility, but in doing that, they want the improvements to be greater than what the Sports Authority may have initially envisioned."
A top priority is upgrading the stadium's video boards — the Jacksonville Jaguars did a $63 million renovation last year, including two boards, each touted as the world's largest at 60 feet tall and 362 feet wide, longer than the football field — including the end zones.
"The scoreboards are archaic … totally outdated," Hagan said of Ray-Jay's current boards. "In putting together the college football bid and agreement, we pledged to upgrade our big screens."
If a funding plan can be agreed upon, construction likely would begin in January, as soon as the Bucs' season ends, so the upgrades could be enjoyed by fans of the Bucs and the University of South Florida Bulls, who also play at the stadium, during the 2016 season.
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Tampa also would help its chances at a fifth time hosting the biggest event in American sports, the Super Bowl, which last came to town in 2009. The other times it hosted were 2001, 1991 and 1984. But the city has not been a finalist since 2011, when it lost out to Arizona for the right to host the 2015 Super Bowl.
The past three Super Bowls awarded — Santa Clara, Calif., Houston and Minneapolis in 2016, 2017 and 2018 — did not have Tampa as a finalist. Local organizers have a year to prepare their bid, which will be presented and voted upon at the NFL owners meetings in May 2016.
Having the college football championship game in 2017 will help the local bid, as will the city's history with hosting major events such as Super Bowls and NCAA championships, said Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission.
"Naturally, we're excited to work with the Buccaneers and several other community partners to put our best foot forward in the bid process," Higgins said. "(The college football championship) is going to be an amazing event for our community. Being able to host major events like this provides a tremendous opportunity to be in the conversation for another Super Bowl. It's incredible."
Contact Greg Auman at email@example.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.