Tampa Sports Authority and USF announce fan protocols at Raymond James Stadium

USF and the Tampa Sports Authority, which manages Raymond James Stadium, on Tuesday announced plans for allowing fans in the stands for football games. Approximately 14,000-16,000 fans will be allowed at USF games, but decisions will be made on “a week-by-week basis.” ORACLE FILE PHOTO

As Raymond James prepares to introduce spectators, there will be noticeable changes for USF football fans this year, including a smaller capacity limit, increased social distancing and a touchless experience. 

Vice President of Athletics Michael Kelly said in a Zoom press conference on Tuesday that USF will take the number of fans allowed in the stadium on “a week-by-week basis.” 

Between 14,000 and 16,000 fans will be allowed in for the USF homecoming game against East Carolina on Oct. 10. Masks will be required and there will be a six-foot clearance mandated at all times. Tickets will be “100 percent” mobile. 

Brian Ford, chief operating officer of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said season-ticket holders will be able to purchase up to six tickets based on their tenure with the team and their ticket basis. 

If fans purchase tickets for their families or groups, they will be put into “pods” so they can sit together but be socially distanced from other fans. 

“Outside of each of those pods, the seats will be secured in a way that they won’t be able to be used. They will be tie strapped up,” Ford said. “Each pod will be easily identified and it will be in conjunction with the tickets that each group gets.”

For parking, Ford said there will be no tailgating or recreational activities allowed. Fans are asked to arrive then enter the game. The parking lot will be revised to have shortened hours and contactless transactions. 

“There will be a three-step entry process to enter the stadium,” Ford said. “The first is a health assessment each fan will have to complete prior gaining access. There will also be QR codes that fans will have to scan to answer a series of questions. At the end of the questionnaire, they will receive a green check mark if they are allowed to enter. For those who do not have a mobile device, they will be helped by a staff member to receive a wristband.”

Eric D. Hart, CEO of the Tampa Sports Authority, which manages Raymond James Stadium, said that the venue will be implementing a no-bag policy as well as introducing touchless enhancements and one-way traffic for the return of fans. 

“What you’re going to see this year is social distancing throughout the venue and improved sanitation and sterilization,” Hart said. “We’re going touchless.” 

Some additions that the Tampa Sports Authority stressed were the placement of over 775 hand sanitizer stations located throughout the stadium. Escalators will now have germicidal lights to disinfect the handrails automatically. 

In an effort to go touchless, Hart said the stadium will also be going cashless. A new feature being implemented is a reverse ATM where fans can input cash to receive a card that can be used to make purchases. 

“From a food and beverage standpoint, the number one thing I want to point out is we are totally cashless from in terms of our concession outlets,” Hart said, “There will be reverse ATMs where people can put in cash in our cards and get a card back that will be available for use at all cash outlets concession-stands portables as well as bars.” 

Vendors in the seating bowl, refillable sodas and popcorn bowls and condiment stands will be eliminated for now.

Once fans are inside the stadium, there will be limited field access. There will be no entertainment from bands and cheerleaders directly on the field, but there are plans to set up other locations for their presence around the stadium. 

“This is one that is leaguewide, the field access is greatly limited to restricted players, coaches and immediate staff that are needed on the field,” Hart said.

Although this will be a different college football game day, Kelly is confident that USF will still have a comfortable and safe experience. 

“Just taking a great facility for our football team and making it even better, so I’m excited about it,” he said. “I appreciate all the efforts that have gone through. Our focus is providing the best and safest experience for our fans and making that an elite one as it relates to college football.”