Raymond James Stadium, also known as Ray Jay, is a multi-purpose stadium located in Tampa, Florida. It is home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League as well as the NCAA’s South Florida Bulls football team and the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL. The stadium seats 65,618. With the addition of temporary seating, it can be expanded to 75,000 for special events.
Raymond James Stadium History
Raymond James Stadium was built to replace Tampa Stadium at the demand of the new Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer. It is located adjacent to the site of the old stadium on the former location of Al Lopez Field, a minor-league baseball stadium that had been demolished in 1989. Once completed, the final cost of the new stadium was $168.5 million, with the entire cost publicly financed.
It was known as Tampa Community Stadium during construction, but the naming rights were bought for US$32.5 million for a 13–year deal by St. Petersburg-based Raymond James Financial in June 1998. On April 27, 2006, an extension was signed to maintain naming rights through 2015. The stadium officially opened on September 20, 1998, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Chicago Bears, 27–15. The stadium hosted its first soccer game on March 20, 1999, when the Tampa Bay Mutiny lost to D.C. United, 5–2.
Raymond James Stadium Features
One of the most recognizable features of the stadium is a 103-foot, 43-ton steel-and-concrete replica pirate ship in the north end zone. Each time the Buccaneers score points, enter the other team’s red zone, or win a home game, the replica cannons on the ship are fired off. The cannons fire once for each point scored.
Temporary bleachers were erected in the end zones for Super Bowl XXXV, which set a then-record stadium attendance of 71,921. The stadium attendance record has since been surpassed by the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship, which also made use of temporary seating. In 2003, the corner billboards in the stadium were replaced with rotating trilon billboards and these were replaced in 2016 with new high visibility displays.
Raymond James Stadium Nicknames
The stadium is referred to as Ray Jay or The New Sombrero, a spinoff from The Big Sombrero, the nickname of Tampa Stadium. Somewhat derisively, it has been occasionally referred to as the CITS, a name coined by long-time local sportscaster Chris Thomas which stands for Community Investment Tax Stadium, referring to the fact that the stadium was entirely financed by local taxpayers.
The stadium was also home to the former Tampa Bay Mutiny of Major League Soccer and continues to periodically host other soccer matches due to its accommodating field dimensions. For example, on June 8, 2012, it hosted the United States men’s national soccer team’s opening qualifying match against Antigua and Barbuda for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which the United States won 3-1.
The Tampa Bay Vipers, the newly formed XFL football team based in Tampa will use the stadium as their home field starting in February 2020. The Vipers were granted a 3 year rent-free lease agreement to play at Raymond James Stadium.
Raymond James Stadium has hosted several large scale concerts, with the largest attendance coming at a show by U2 in 2009. Other performers at the venue have included Kenny Chesney, Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, NSYNC, and One Direction. WWE planned to host WrestleMania 36—the 2020 edition of its flagship professional wrestling pay-per-view—at Raymond James Stadium on April 5. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, WWE subsequently filmed it at its training facility in Orlando instead, behind closed doors with no audience and only essential staff present.