TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans clamoring to see new quarterback Tom Brady in person won't have to wait much longer. The Bucs announced Saturday that starting next week, when the they host the Los Angeles Chargers on Oct. 4, a small number of longtime season-ticket holders, player and staff family members and luxury suite members will be able to watch at Raymond James Stadium.
Originally, the plan was to begin this soft reopening in Week 6, when the Bucs host the Green Bay Packers Oct. 18, but a team official told ESPN Saturday that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' announcement Friday to move the state into Phase 3 of its reopening plan, along with discussions with public health experts, accelerated the process. "We have been working tirelessly with local and state authorities, as well as medical experts, to ensure a safe environment at Raymond James Stadium," Buccaneers COO Brian Ford said in a statement. "We are ready and excited to welcome our fans back."
After not being able to attend the Bucs' home opener last week, some family members of Bucs players are flying to Denver to attend Sunday's game against the Broncos. This marks the first week that limited fans will be able to attend games at Empower Field at Mile High.
On Oct. 18, the stadium will open to a larger group of fans, reaching 25% capacity of its 65,890 seats -- the maximum allotted capacity for 2020, according to CDC guidelines. A team official told ESPN that for now, the 25% rule will be the maximum allotment, unless the CDC updates its guidelines.
The team will begin selling tickets Oct. 1, with priority given to those who have had season tickets since 1998 or earlier. Luxury suite members will have full access to their suites starting with the Week 4 Chargers game, along with players' family members and the family members of staff.
All season pass members who have kept their 2020 season pass payments will be able to purchase limited tickets for up to two games, with the possibility of additional games based on availability and tenure. Tickets for priority presale for the remainder of the season will go on sale Oct. 5.
Increased safety measures at the stadium include socially distant, pod-style seating, full mobile ordering and ticketing, cashless transactions, touchless hardware in restrooms and additional food preparation safety protocols. All stadium workers must undergo mandatory temperature checks when reporting to work.
All fans will be required to complete a health screening on their mobile devices (forms are also available onsite) prior to entry into Raymond James Stadium. Fans also will be required to wear face masks, except when actively eating or drinking. Prior to the beginning of Phase 3, individuals were subjected to mandatory fines for not wearing face masks. Those fines are no longer enforceable in Phase 3, but team officials told ESPN that the masks are still a requirement for entry.
As of Saturday afternoon, the state of Florida has had 698,682 positive cases of COVID-19, with 14,022 deaths, with 41,722 of those cases in Hillsborough County and a high concentration of cases in South Florida's Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties. The Jacksonville Jaguars had 25% capacity at their Thursday night game against the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins opened their doors to fans in Week 2 for their home opener, with 11,075 fans at Hard Rock Stadium.