Buccaneers facing challenge at box office

One of the storylines I’m curious to see play out in the NFC South this season is how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fare at the box office.

Team officials have sent out subtle hints through the media that the Buccaneers could face local television blackouts for the first time since the team moved into Raymond James Stadium in 1998. To be quite honest, you could see a lot of empty seats last year, but they were all officially sold.

The Bucs are putting individual game tickets on sale July 30 at 10 a.m. and they’re available for all eight regular-season and two preseason games. They’ll be sold on the team’s website or you can call (800) 745-3000.

Getting that stadium sold out is going to be a challenge. I live in Tampa and love the area, but I’ll freely admit it’s a tough market for professional sports. There’s no doubt the Bucs have some die-hard fans, but like Jacksonville and Miami, they face challenges that a lot of other teams don’t.

A lot of people that live in Florida aren’t originally from Florida, and some keep loyalties to their hometown teams. Ask the Lightning and the Rays about that, too. Throw in a rough economy and the fact that there are a lot of other things to do in Tampa on a Sunday afternoon in November or December, and that can make selling tickets difficult.

There’s a simple solution for all this. Win games and the fans will come. But that’s easier said than done. The Bucs began a youth movement last season, and those things take time. But fans and the ticket office, which has been running a strong advertising campaign around Tampa Bay, operate on a different clock.

The Bucs better start showing some upside to the youth movement early this season or they will be playing in front of a lot of empty seats, and local fans won’t be watching them on television.