Raymond James Stadium 5G System Ready For Super Bowl LV
Courtesy Tampa Sports Authority – Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium
in addition to 5G technology, has new LED sports lighting that can flush the stadium with many color schemes.
COMPLETE FACELIFT, COMPREHENSIVE COVID-19 UPGRADES IN PLACE
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have become the first NFL team to advance to a Super Bowl held in their home venue. Raymond James Stadium is equipped with the latest digital technology for fans in attendance to document the game on their mobile devices.
Early in the new year, crews wrapped up a massive 5G upgrade at the 65,890-seat stadium and surrounding property to accommodate the newest generation of broadband cellular service.
The 5G project runs $50 million to $70 million to install the infrastructure, said Eric Hart, president and CEO of the Tampa Sports Authority.
This week, systems are being tested and will be operational for Super Bowl LV, Hart said.
Cell service providers AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon covered the cost and will pay rent to the authority for customers to use the Wi-Fi system, Hart said. The project started in January 2020 before the pandemic delayed its completion.
“There’s cable everywhere, connected to 50 cell towers that are 40 feet tall, every 200 feet, through all the seating areas and clubs, and expanded to the parking areas,” he said. “We were able to work through them to improve lighting and communications in those areas as well.”
Super Bowl LV is set for Feb. 7 with a crowd capped at 22,000, according to the NFL. The number extends to 7,500 vaccinated health care workers to be honored by the league.
Bucs home games for the 2020 regular season were restricted to about 16,000 fans, which Hart said amounts to 22% to 23% of capacity.
The Tampa Bay community initiated those restrictions after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed all of the state’s sports and entertainment venues to reopen at full capacity, and with coronavirus spiking across the country.
The 5G project comes after Raymond James Stadium completed $160 million in renovations prior to 2020, including new end zone videoboards, audio equipment and the stadium marquees. All club spaces were renovated and new red seats were installed in the bowl.
The Bucs paid for $130 million of total costs with the balance covered by the authority’s obligations. Super Bowl, WrestleMania (pushed back from 2020 to April 2021) concerts, and other major events, plus the Bucs and their needs, drove the improvements.
Since that time, the authority has put $6.5 million in COVID improvements into Raymond James Stadium, federal CARES Act funding that came through Hillsborough County.
“We made the building completely touchless and upgraded all the entry processes, with huge sanitization programs, and got GBAC certification,” Hart said.
“We also did some additional capital upgrades with new LED sports lighting,” he said. “We’re now fully integrated with 2.1 million color schemes where we can change all the colors of the building. It works real well with all the other pieces, the renovated field and a complete pullout of all the drainage areas.”
The Bucs were among 19 NFL teams that played games with fans during the regular season. The team, the authority and the league worked with sports architect Populous to develop a new entry plan during the pandemic, implementing a social distance format in a pathway from the parking lots to the building.
The exit plan relied more on how local officials could manage that process most efficiently without getting into the weeds with Centers for Disease Control guidelines regarding spacing, Hart said.
Fans attending Bucs games were required to wear face coverings, like all NFL teams playing games with fans in the stands. The state of Florida itself does not have a mask mandate, which has been the biggest challenge for all parties concerned in Tampa, he said.
For the most part, though, things went pretty well during football season, he said. The Bucs, in tandem with the authority, used Ticketmaster’s new social distance tool to remap the seating bowl into groups of seats sold online.
“Based on where the rakes are and separation in different areas of the building, we have a higher percentage of fans in the upper deck because there’s more room up there than the lower bowl (and) with a smaller percentage of people,” Hart said.
All told, football fans gave the stadium officials a big thumbs-up for protecting them during the pandemic, according to Hart.
“Coming out of the blocks, we learned a lot in the first event,” he said. “If you talk to any of our fans at the end of the season, we were getting rave reviews, from the way you enter the building, the quickness of it and the cleanliness. We had the critical things in place first, such as the bathrooms and (plexiglass) dividers. Touchless entry with magnetometers and reconfigured employee entrances — those things have been coming as we go.”
Read More About The Tampa Market At Pollstar + VenuesNow’s Market Focus: Tampa / St. Petersburg Hub