TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) —As fans count down the days for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to take on the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl, the NFL is working around the clock to get Raymond James Stadium ready for the historic game that’s happening during historic times.
The Bucs will be the first team to play in a Super Bowl in their home stadium in NFL history. And both the Bucs and the Chiefs will be the first to play in a Super Bowl amidst a pandemic.
“It might look different for a Super Bowl this year, but the excitement is there, the energy is there, the community is there, and certainly having the Bucs in the game this year just adds to the story line of what will be Super Bowl 55,” said NFL Vice President of Live Events, Jon Barker.
This, despite the COVID-19 pandemic calling an audible on how the NFL plans the big game.
“We’ve had to do virtual walkthroughs with them taking photos and videos of different spaces just to keep things moving,” said Eric Finkelstein, NFL Senior Director of Event Planning.
Seventeen weeks of virtual planning has slowed down, and now NFL teams are on the ground at Ray Jay to transform the stadium in two weeks’ time.
“We’ve got a brand-new surface out there, it’s in great shape, we’re working on painting it now, we’ve now obviously got the teams in,” said NFL Field Director, Ed Mangan.
And what’s being done to ensure it’s a level playing field on a field that gives fans extra ammo to cheer on the Bucs against the Chiefs.
“They will put in their requests as to rituals that they like to do in a game, we will review it and make sure that whatever it is we are doing is done equally for both teams,” said Eric Finkelstein, NFL Senior Director of Event Planning.
Also under review is a COVID-19 mitigation plan so the Super Bowl doesn’t turn into a super spreader. The plan includes limiting the number of fans in the stands and filling empty seats with cardboard cutouts.
“Every fan, every guest, every person working at the stadium when they arrive will receive a kn95 mask, will receive bacterial wipes,” said Barker.
Coronavirus screening will also happen at the Super Bowl Experience taking place at Julian B. Lane Park on Jan. 29 to Jan. 31 and Feb. 3 to Feb. 6. You can still expect the Vince Lombardi trophy to be there along with interactive games and concessions, but you can also expect something different.
“We are not having on-site player appearances this year due to COVID concerns so we actually have some virtual player autographs and meet and greets,” said Nicki Ewell, NFL Director of Events.
These are unprecedented celebrations and an unprecedented game that the NFL believes will be ones to remember.
“I think there will be a lot of surprises that you’ll see,” said Barker.
Free tickets to the Super Bowl Experience are still available but they’re going fast. You can reserve them by downloading the One Pass App in your app store.