TAMPA, Fla. -- When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Cleveland Browns in Friday night's third preseason game, they'll be showing off some new digs. Raymond James Stadium, the place they've called home since 1998, received a major facelift -- most notably, new video boards -- as the first part of a two-phase, $140 million renovation project.
The iconic pirate ship in the north end zone is still there, but it's now dwarfed by a 9,600-square foot, high-definition video board behind it, one of two in the stadium replacing 2,200-square foot boards. There are also four video tower displays in each corner of the stadium that make up 2,304 square feet each and will provide fantasy football updates, scores from other games and they'll highlight photos from fans sent via social media. Put together, the video displays are 30,000-plus feet, the third-largest in the NFL.
A single bank of speakers has been replaced with surround sound. There are now more than 400 speakers driven by 750,000 watts of power and 30 miles of cable. The whole idea with these upgrades is to provide fans the comforts of home, but the excitement of seeing a live event.
"When the Bucs are playing, the fans are going to be able to see it and hear it and get involved. The experience on and off the field is going to be electrifying and cutting edge at Raymond James Stadium this coming season," said Bucs chief operating officer Brian Ford, who was on hand to unveil the renovations in a media tour Thursday. He called the stadium the "crown jewel of the NFL."
"We need to give our fans a reason to come out and experience it. ... There are reasons to sit at home or go out [to a sports bar], but there's nothing like the game-day experience at Raymond James Stadium," Ford said. "It's about coming out and being a part of cheering on the Buccaneers with other die-hard fans, best fans in the NFL. To be a part of that, you can't match it and you can't get it sitting at home."
After selecting Heisman Trophy-winner Jameis Winston first overall in the NFL draft, the Bucs averaged 61,560 in attendance last season, which ranked 26th in the league. They were 29th in 2014 and 2013. In 2010, they failed to sell out a single home game and all home games were blacked out on local television, including the preseason. In 2011, six regular-season home games were blacked out, in addition to the two preseason games. In 2012, six games were also blacked out. The NFL lifted its blackout policy in 2015. The team once boasted a 100,000 season-ticket waiting list.
The team also has two new, all-inclusive, air-conditioned Hall of Fame Club suites, each housing 240 plush leather seats in 9,500 square feet. They feature dining areas, buffet stations and a large bar. The suites now have a combined 126 television monitors.
Concessions have also been upgraded, both in suites and in the main concourses, and they're much different than the traditional hot dogs, hamburgers and nachos. Every season they come up with 7 to 10 new menu offerings in suites or concessions or both.
Fans can purchase the new spiced BBQ sandwich with molasses pulled pork and coleslaw at several locations in the stadium. For those looking for something lighter, there's a chicken cobb salad with green goddess dressing that's made in-house with avocado and fresh herbs and it's available in sections 207, 232 and the Club Deli. There's also the Red Hot Taco Stand with Cuban pork or ropa vieja, pico de gallo and mango habanero, hot Louisiana or cayenne hot sauce in sections 107 and 132.
"We try to have something for everybody," said executive chef Kevin Riley, who works for Aramark, the stadium's exclusive food provider. "We really pride ourselves in utilizing the best proteins and best produce available. We really believe that starting with the right ingredients is going to give the best end result for us, for our food and our food quality."
Funnel cake fries dusted with powdered sugar and chocolate sauce are in sections 148 and 123, which are located in each end zone. The concession area at section 116, near the team's tunnel, will feature the grilled cheese burger, which features an eight-ounce beef patty slapped between two smoked-stuffed grilled cheese sandwiches. You can get a foot-long cinnamon sugar pretzel with cream cheese glaze in sections 217 and 241.
"Some of these items are big and going for the 'wow' factor," Riley said.