On February 7th, the city of Tampa will host Superbowl LV, where the Tampa Buccaneers will play the Kansas City Chiefs. Notably, it will be the fifth time for the Superbowl to be in Tampa. However, it’s the first time one of the teams playing will do so in their own city. And of course, it’s also another important first. Never before have the teams played in a Superbowl during a pandemic. For Tampa, that presents obvious challenges as they strive to make this year’s event not only entertaining but safe.
From initial preparations through the entire Superbowl experience, COVID precautions will be in place. Some measures like social distancing, had-washing and facemasks will be the same as they are otherwise. But in addition, additional measures are being taken for added safety measures. This also extends well beyond NFL policies and Raymond James Stadium itself. In fact, the entire city of Tampa will feel the effects of hosting a Superbowl during a pandemic. And perhaps, it might just turn out to be an incredible opportunity for everyone.
“Our city is gearing up to host the Super Bowl, and we are so excited to offer a fun, safe and unforgettable Super Bowl experience for our community and to show off Tampa on the world stage.” – Jane Castor, Tampa’s Mayor
Pre-Superbowl Preparations During a Pandemic
Naturally, the city of Tampa will perform routine clean-up activities in preparation for this year’s big game. Keep Tampa Beautiful and the Host Committee for the Superbowl partnered in 1/24 or a “land and sea” cleanup effort. In doing so, standard COVID precautions will be in place. But other aspects of the city will feel the pandemic’s impact as well. For example, Tampa International Airport will boost their own virus-proofing and clean-up efforts. And all official staff preparing the stadium will practice strict precautions in readying the event for nearly 25,000 fans.
As part of having the Superbowl during a pandemic, fans will be required to wear facemasks throughout the game. But these won’t be just any masks. Everyone entering will be given a KN-95 face mask, designed to offer high-level COVID precautions. Staff will need to prepare these for distribution game day along with safety cards noting the event’s rules. Likewise, sanitizer stations will be located everywhere in addition to designated eating and drinking areas. All of this will be well-demarcated before the gates open Superbowl Sunday.
“Every fan, every guest, every person working at the stadium when they arrive will receive a KN95 mask, will receive bacterial wipes, will receive hand wipes, will receive sanitizer, will receive a safety card. And everybody will be in masks.” – Jon Barker, NFL Head of Live Event Production
Fan Experiences of a Superbowl During a Pandemic
Despite many COVID precautions in place, Tampa is striving to recreate engaging fan experiences the week before the game. When there isn’t a Superbowl during a pandemic, parties and festivities are abundant leading up to the big event. Concerts, player interviews, and fan interactives are the norm. Unfortunately, there won’t be many of these regular events this year and no autograph signing either. However, fans still have many things to look forward to. This is where Tampa’s scenic waterfront and Riverwalk will be quite the asset. (For more the development of Downtown Tampa, check out this Bold Business article.)
The Superbowl Fan Experience will still take place in Tampa this year in the days before the football match. Tickets, though limited in number, were offered free for those who signed up early. The event will provide a variety of fan interactive experiences along the 2.7 mile stretch adjacent to Tampa’s beautiful bay. Julian B. Lane Park, Curtis-Hixon Park, and Tech Village will all be specific destinations. And most importantly, all will offer outdoor activities with plenty of fresh air. Along with regular COVID precautions, this will allow fans to best enjoy their visit to the Superbowl during a pandemic.
“These dedicated health care workers continue to put their own lives at risk to serve others, and we owe them our ongoing gratitude. We hope in a small way that this initiative will inspire our country and recognize these true American heroes.” – Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner
Appreciating Fans in a Unique Way
In an effort to show respect and appreciation, the NFL awarded 7,500 healthcare workers tickets to this year’s Superbowl. Local nurses, EMS workers, and others in healthcare fields who have received vaccinations were able to enter a lottery drawing. Not only does the gesture reward the courage and dedication of local Tampa healthcare staff. It also encourages others to receive vaccinations as they become available. In this way, these efforts are both reactive and proactive ways to invoke COVID precautions.
Fans will look a bit different in this Superbowl during a pandemic in other ways. While 24,700 total fans will be socially distanced inside, they won’t be the only ones. COVID precautions limited the number of live fans but not virtual and cardboard ones. Digital 2-D cutouts as well as paper ones will fill many of the seats in Raymond James Stadium during the game. In pursuing this, the NFL and Tampa will strive to make a Superbowl during a pandemic as “normal” as possible. Safety is certainly top priority, but where possible, normalcy will be a focus as well. Digital sports technologies will help. (For more on the evolution of digital sports technology, check out this Bold Business story.)
A Social Statement in Challenging Times
It’s been a tremendously difficult year for everyone around the globe. Dealing with COVID precautions and restrictions has taken a toll on all of us. Likewise, frontline workers and those who have lost loved ones to the disease has been heartbreaking. For this reason, the ability to enjoy a Superbowl during a pandemic is something that should be cherished. With so much of life disrupted, coming together around such a major sporting and entertainment event is powerful. Without question, Tampa is striving to provide both fans in person and at home such an opportunity while still honoring safety. It’s definitely something we all need at this stage of the game.
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