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Tampa Bay Buccaneers Will Not Allow Fans Into Raymond James Stadium For First Two Home Games

Billboard and parking garage of Raymond James Stadium
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced Wednesday that fans will not be allowed into Raymond James Stadium for the first two weeks of the NFL season.

Citing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced Wednesday that fans would not be allowed inside Raymond James Stadium for the first two games of the NFL season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneer fans hoping to see quarterback Tom Brady at Raymond James Stadium will have to wait until at least Oct. 18.

The team announced Wednesday that they will play their first two home games - Sept. 20 versus the Carolina Panthers and Oct. 4 against the Los Angeles Chargers - without fans in the stands.

That means the first game Bucs fans will be allowed to attend - COVID-19 conditions permitting - would be when the Green Bay Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers come to town in the sixth week of the season.

In a letter to season ticket holders, Chief Operating Officer Brian Ford cited concerns about the pandemic as the reason for the decision.

"Over the past several months, we have worked closely with the NFL and local officials to determine the best way to safely and responsibly host a limited number of fans at Buccaneers home games during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Ford. "We have sought to balance the opportunity to provide access to you, our loyal fans, with the responsibility to adhere to public health and medical guidance in order to maintain the health and safety of fans, players, staff, and our Tampa community. Ultimately, public health is our top priority."

At least 25 other NFL teams will play at least their first home game without allowing fans in.

But the other two teams that call Florida home - the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Miami Dolphins are not among them. They're limiting attendance to 25% and 20% of capacity, respectively, for their home openers.

The Bucs announced in July that they plan to have reduced seating capacity when they do allow fans in. The Tampa Sports Authority, which operates the stadium, is planning for that to be about 14,000 fans for Bucs games and about 10,000 for University of South Florida football games.

Fans will not be allowed inside Raymond James Stadium for the USF home opener Sept. 12 against the Citadel.

Earlier this year, Raymond James Stadium received about $10.4 million in federal funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act for safety and sanitary improvements.

Buccaneer season ticket holders can opt for a full refund or have their payments for this year credited toward 2021.

The NFL plans to wrap up the season - hopefully with fans - at Raymond James Stadium with Super Bowl 55 on Feb. 7, 2021.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.