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WUSF's coverage of Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Feb. 7, 2021.

What Could A Scaled Back Super Bowl Look Like For Tampa Bay?

Bucs Super Bowl merchandise on a table
Carl Lisciandrello / WUSF Public Media
Bucs merchandise began popping up at stores across the greater Tampa Bay region, including Dick's Sporting Goods, after the team reached Super Bowl LV following its victory over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game on Jan. 24, 2021.

As the Buccaneers prepare to play Super Bowl 55 in their home stadium, Tampa Bay businesses and sports officials are bracing for what could be an underwhelming economic impact from the big game — at least in the short term.

It’s been a big year for sports fans in the Tampa Bay region.

The Lightning won the Stanley Cup, the Rays made it to the World Series, the Toronto Raptors are in Tampa for the NBA season and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are playing in the Super Bowl at their home stadium.

And now, for the first time in NFL history, the Super Bowl will be a home game. It’s the fifth time Tampa has hosted the big game but due to the pandemic, this one will be like no other.

On this week's episode, we explore the economic impact of a scaled-back Super Bowl.

We first hear from WUSF reporter Steve Newborn and Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission and President and CEO of the Super Bowl Host Committee.

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 04, 2019 - Rob Higgins during the Super Bowl LV Host Committee press conference. Photo By Kyle Zedaker/Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kyle Zedaker/Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Kyle Zedaker/Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 04, 2019 - Rob Higgins during the Super Bowl LV Host Committee press conference. Photo By Kyle Zedaker/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Then host Bradley George talks with Chris Jones, an economist who teaches at the University of South Florida, in the second half of the show.

Raymond James Stadium can seat up to 66,000. But the NFL has capped attendance at about 22,000, and the league is giving tickets to 7,500 healthcare workers.

In addition to the attendance restrictions due to the pandemic, Chris Jones speculates that less tourists will be making their way here to Tampa Bay since the Bucs are the home team.

"They're (Tampa Bay fans) not necessarily going to be renting hotel rooms for several days or dining out for several days in restaurants or going to our malls," Jones said.

That may mean less revenue from the big game and its accompanying events. But in the long term, Jones thinks merchandising for this year's historic game could last for years — if the Bucs win.

"One of the things I can see that hasn't been talked about a lot is the merchandising for this particular game — in terms of shirts and hats, particularly if the Buccaneers win — could actually go on for years, much longer than you would see in a typical Super Bowl setting. Because of the historic nature that the Bucs defended their home turf," he said.

To hear more of Bradley's conversation with Chris Jones and Steve's interview with Rob Higgins, click "Listen" above.

Hi there! I’m Dinorah Prevost and I’m the producer of Florida Matters, WUSF's weekly public affairs show. That basically means that I plan, record and edit the interviews we feature on the show.
Bradley George was a Morning Edition host and reporter at WUSF until March 2022.
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