Professional football has changed so much since it was comprised of athletic clubs backed by business owners looking for a way to advertise their business and keep their employees in shape. Today, the NFL is a billion dollar industry with a worldwide reach. Television revenue is the lifeblood of this enterprise along with the revenue a team can make from their stadium.
The website SBNATION published a story this week about teams that may eventually be poised for relocation. Among the teams named in the article was your Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Is the NFL even thinking about an existing team relocating for greener fields? Probably not today. Should a region like Tampa Bay have contingency plans in place to protect themselves? Let’s see.
After purchasing the Buccaneers in 1995, Malcolm Glazer would declare the need for a new stadium to replace the Old Sombrero. An agreement was in place where the team would pay for 50% of the stadium costs if there was 50,000 deposits for a 10-year season ticket commitment. The drive would come up short by 17,000 and the team would withdraw the offer leaving Hillsborough County to foot the bill for a new stadium.
Today the Atlanta Falcons play in the Mercedes Benz Stadium built at a cost of $1.6 billion. The Raiders will begin play next season in a new stadium in Las Vegas that cost $1.8 billion to build. The Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers will share a stadium at Hollywood Park, a project that will run up to $4.93 billion. Raymond James Stadium was completed in 1998 at a cost of $168.5 million, with the Buccaneers playing their first game there on September 20, 1998, and beating the Chicago Bears 27-15.
Glazer was ridiculed in 1995 when he purchased the Buccaneers for a league-record $192 million. In 2018 Forbes magazine calculated the Buccaneers value at $2 billion, 28th in the league. The problem with that is that it estimates what the team would be worth if sold; taking into account the trending value of owning a franchise and having a seat at the NFL table moving forward.
You don’t own a professional sports franchise unless you understand how to make money. Professional teams generate revenue through ticket sales, concessions, and hosting events like Super Bowls and concerts. This is why having a state-of-the-art facility is paramount to a team owner’s ability to increase profit.
Other Honorable Mentions
The Buffalo Bills play in a stadium that was built during the first Lincoln administration. Team owners Terrence and Kim Pegula are interested in keeping the team there and have started a dialogue to that end.
The Jacksonville Jaguars play at TIAA Stadium, which was completed in 1995 and includes part of the original Gator Bowl Stadium that was first erected in 1927. They have a contract to play one home game away each year, playing the Texans in week nine of the upcoming season at Wembley Stadium in England.
The Cincinnati Bengals have had the lowest attendance average over the last five seasons and Paul Brown Stadium is in need of an upgrade. With a shot at being a host city for the 2026 FIFA, those upgrades are in the planning stages.
There have been renovations to Raymond James Stadium as Tampa Bay prepares to host the Super Bowl in 2021. One would be hard pressed to make the argument that the 21-year-old stadium is already outdated. With other cities completing new stadiums that will join the rotation of possible Super Bowl hosts, having great weather in January and some of the best beaches in the world could eventually be outweighed by the outdated stadium conditions.
There is no imminent plan for the Buccaneers to move. But as the 2019 season approaches it would serve the community well to remember how far football has come. Stadium innovations are quickly evolving, and start the discussion of what it might take to forever keep the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay.