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Raymond James Stadium

Tampa, FL

Home of the South Florida Bulls

3.4

3.5

Raymond James Stadium (map it)
4201 N. Dale Mabry Highway
Tampa, FL 33607


South Florida Bulls website

Raymond James Stadium website

Year Opened: 1998

Capacity: 65,647

There are no tickets available at this time.

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A Night of Firsts

As an apropos introduction to Stadium Journey, I decided to have a collection of firsts: my first review would be my first time in a stadium I've driven by numerous times to see my first University of South Florida Bulls football game — or my first pro/college outdoor-league football of any kind, for that matter — in my first major outdoor stadium in Florida. I admit that I'm not a football fan in the least; being a jaded Philadelphia Eagles fan will do that. However, I had all intention of going in with an open mind, as this is college ball and I was told it's a whole new experience, both in the game and in its fans. Though I could only compare it with my other stadium experiences, baseball parks and hockey arenas, I'm pleased to report, for the most part, the game — and the stadium — did not disappoint.

South Florida's football program isn't as storied as other Big East members', but that doesn't make them any less determined to prove themselves. Established in 1997, the rise of the Bulls has been slow, but steady. After spending their first 5 seasons in then-"1-AA" (now FCS), in 2001, they were promoted to 1-A (now FBS), and joined first Conference USA in 2003, only to leave for the Big East in 2005. They've actually achieved some success, having been ranked as high as #2 in the nation twice in the past few years.

3.4

What is FANFARE?

The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Atmosphere
  • Neighborhood
  • Fans
  • Access
  • Return on Investment
  • Extras

Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".

Food & Beverage    4

Being the home to the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there are plenty of food options available. Kiosks serving all kinds of typical fare — hot dogs, burgers, fries, nachos, popcorn — were plentiful and the lines were quick. The food's tasty, but then again, it's hard to screw up hot dogs, too.

Points off on two counts: There are four kiosks that specialize in cheesesteaks. As I said prior, I'm from Philly, so this is a staple of my diet. I understand a smaller crowd attends USF games, but none of the kiosks were open; even one would have sufficed. Also, the food is overpriced for what you get. Maybe I'm spoiled by Tropicana Field's $6 small beer prices, but $7.50 seems steep for me.

Kudos to having a couple Pizza Huts throughout, as well as a gluten-free menu at each endzone. Remembering people allergic to wheat germ is something more places should do.

Atmosphere    4

Now, this number's kind of skewed. I went to a Wednesday night game when it was 77˚F at a sunset kickoff without a cloud in the sky and beautiful breezes throughout the night. If this game were, say, on a Saturday morning in September, it would be my idea of the 7th circle of hell. This place is so open and had great sight lines in pretty much every seat; that's a problem in the day — there's very little opportunity for shade and concrete gets HOT. But, if you attend an evening game, it can be a beautiful night for football.

The in-game entertainment was your typical marching bands and fan participation contests. The stadium screens at both endzones are very nice and easily viewable from every seat. My only complaint is the house music director's obvious affection toward DJ Khaled's "All I Do is Win", as it was played — not once, not twice — but NINE TIMES. Surely there are more songs to get the crowd pumped. But hey, whatever helps, right...?

Neighborhood    3

Within walking distance, there's not much of a "neighborhood" to speak of, other than residential to the east, a park to the north, and strip clubs and fast food joints to the south. This stadium, as with the rest of Tampa Bay, was built with the car in mind, so the only walking I'd recommend doing is either to your car or the nearest cab.

However, within 5 miles of Ray Jay, that's where you find the real things to do: two malls (International Plaza, Westshore Mall), Channelside, the Westshore district. Dining and entertainment options abound — and driving to iconic, yet very overcrowded and overplayed, Ybor City isn't necessary.

Fans    3

When I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed tons of people participating in all various degrees of tailgating: everything from simple "lounging with your feet up and a beer" camaraderie to truly gastronomical delights was on display. What you picture your typical on-campus stadium's experience in the parking lots was definitely present here. This was a 4/5.

Then, I walked into Ray Jay, where, at 6:45 (kickoff was 7pm), there was nobody there. It was a beautiful Wednesday night for a nationally-televised Big East rivalry game. When the kickoff happened and there were more empty red seats than green shirts, I wrote this off as a 1/5.

As the game progressed, the crowd grew slightly bigger, but even at an announced 39k out of 66,000, it sounded twice that size. The ones that were here were, thankfully, passionate. Now, it's up to a 2/5.

Then, something happened that renewed my faith in the fan base I was about to bash for their apparent apathy: during the 4th Quarter, a play by Rutgers that seemed to have them run up the field just abruptly stopped with no signaling by the refs. The head referee got on the mic and announced that, "The down would be replayed due to a 'simulated whistle' from the crowd." In other words, the crowd cheated to mess with the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers ended up getting tackled in the endzone for a safety two downs later. That shows the passion that most teams long for from a smaller-than-expected crowd, thusly my score. I just wish more people would have shown; it'd have made a hell-of-a-good-time that much better.

Access    4

Dale Mabry Highway, the main thoroughfare that runs by the stadium, is a 6-lane surface road that doubles as a congested parking lot during rush hour. Thankfully, the amount of parking makes getting off Dale Mabry quickly a breeze. Himes Avenue also gives you access to stadium parking, though as a residential road, it's not the most fluid escape route.

Once there, parking is everywhere for relatively-cheap: $15 in pretty much all lots and tailgating starts 3 hours before kickoff. After you get in the stadium, you're greeted by very wide and roomy concourses and plenty of clean and large restrooms.

Return on Investment    3

The stadium as a whole is a perfect place to watch any game, so spending the money to go to a game is more than worth it. That said, $16 for the student section is usually in the budget of any student — except with unemployment at 13% in the Tampa Bay area affecting younger people disproportionally, so disposable income is harder to come by for the average student. $25-40 for the average person is also kind of hard to swallow nowadays, but not too bad in the whole scheme of things.

This team is having a rough year, having gone 4-3 into this game, so the present team doesn't allow for a great ROI. However, the future is bright with new recruiting potential having Skip Holtz (the legendary Lou Holtz' son) on the scene.

Extras    3

While more associated with pirates than bovines, every time the Bulls score any points, a cannon is fired, thanks in part to the Bucs' iconic pirate ship in the north endzone. However, before you get too excited, the Bucs do not allow for the use of the ship, so the "cannon" sound is actually fired from the opposite side of the stadium — the upper deck's southwest corner, to be exact.

Because the ship is off limits for Bulls games, the mast is raised to hide the Jolly Roger-like logo for the Bucs (though it is prominently displayed everywhere else) and police are stationed on the ship to keep visitors at-bay (no pun intended). The deck attached to the ship, however, is open to the public - and packed with plenty of fans. In addition to the deck, there are a few nice tiki bars in the north endzone as well. That whole endzone experience, which is where the student section is located, also makes a trip to Raymond James Stadium for a Bulls game more than worth it.

Final Thoughts

The little misunderstood school that could has now become a real player on the college football stage. They're still a couple years from being the powerhouse they can be, but having, despite its flaws, a superior stadium like this at their disposal will go a long way in making that happen.

That all said, another first happened that night: the Bulls won their 100th game as a team, making them 5-3 for the season, as they beat Rutgers for the first time in four years. All in all, that alone is more than worth the price of admission.

Very good review. Love the strip clubs to the South part. Thanks for sharing!

Very good review. Love the strip clubs to the South part. Thanks for sharing!

by jamminsport16 | Nov 06, 2010 10:03 AM

RE: Very good review. Love the strip clubs to the South part. Thanks for sharing!

Thanks! I didn't actually go to the strip clubs that night, so I didn't want to give my opinion of which I recommend, but you're welcome to try them for yourself! Thanks for reading.

by StPeteRays | Jan 20, 2011 03:24 AM

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Crowd Reviews

Fun time

Total Score: 4.14

  • Food & Beverage: 5
  • Atmosphere 5
  • Neighborhood: 5
  • Fans: 3
  • Access: 5
  • RoI: 3
  • Extras: 3

I'm a USF student and I love going to the games. I know we don't have our own football stadium. But, using a NFL facility makes for even a better time.

USF football definitely worthwhile

Total Score: 3.57

  • Food & Beverage: 4
  • Atmosphere 4
  • Neighborhood: 2
  • Fans: 5
  • Access: 4
  • RoI: 4
  • Extras: 2

I found no shortage of variety of concessions when I attended. Atmosphere-depends on the opponent and size of the crowd. Not much neighborhood to speak of. Might not be a whole lot of fans but they are loud and passionate. Definitely go when they're playing West Virginia or Pitt.You won't be sorry.

My Raymond James experience

Total Score: 2.86

  • Food & Beverage: 4
  • Atmosphere 2
  • Neighborhood: 2
  • Fans: 3
  • Access: 2
  • RoI: 3
  • Extras: 4

Not much to report here. It is a NFL stadium being used by a college team with not much of a fan following.

The stadium is nice, the food is great, although priced at NFL levels.

The neighborhood is shady, especially late at night and access is terrible. It would be NY city style traffic if the fans actually showed up, but they rarely do.

The fans that go are passionate, and they are growing in numbers since Skip Holtz became coach but the school has only had football for a few years and it shows. They would do better with a 40,000 seat on-campus stadium.

Be sure to walk around the stadium and check out the ship, it is really cool.

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Local Food & Drink

Lee Roy Selmon's  (map it!)

4302 W. Boy Scout Blvd.

Tampa, FL 33607

(813) 871-EATS

http://www.leeroyselmons.com/

Charley's Steak House  (map it!)

4444 W Cypress St

Tampa, FL 33607

(813) 353-9706

http://www.talkofthetownrestaurants.com/

VariAsian Crazy Buffet  (map it!)

2702 N Dale Mabry Hwy

Tampa, FL 33607

(813) 998-9228

http://www.gocrazybuffet.com/

La Teresita  (map it!)

3248 W Columbus Dr

Tampa, FL 33607

(813) 879-9704

http://www.lateresitarestaurant.com/

Ruth's Chris Steak House  (map it!)

1700 N Westshore Blvd

Tampa, FL 33607

(813) 282-1118

http://www.ruthschris.com/Steak-House/3841/Tampa?google_local

Rick's on the River  (map it!)

2305 N Willow Ave

Tampa, FL 33607

(813) 251-0369

http://www.ricksontheriver.com/

J Alexander's  (map it!)

913 N Dale Mabry Hwy

Tampa, FL 33609

(813) 354-9006

http://www.jalexanders.com/

Matoi Sushi  (map it!)

602 N Dale Mabry Hwy

Tampa, FL 33609

(813) 871-3233

http://www.matoisamojung.com/

Kona Grill  (map it!)

4134 W Boy Scout Blvd

Tampa, FL 33607

(813) 877-5938

http://www.konagrill.com/

Thai Terrace  (map it!)

2055 N Dale Mabry Hwy

Tampa, FL 33607

(813) 877-8955

http://www.thaiterrace.net/

Local Entertainment

International Plaza  (map it!)

2223 N. West Shore Blvd

Tampa, FL 33607

(813) 342-3790

http://www.shopinternationalplaza.com/

WestShore Plaza  (map it!)

250 Westshore Plaza

Tampa, FL 33609

(813) 286-0790

http://www.westshoreplaza.com/

Green Iguana  (map it!)

2520 N Dale Mabry Hwy

Tampa, FL 33607

(813) 868-7600

http://www.greeniguana.com/

Channelside Bay Plaza  (map it!)

615 Channelside Dr

Tampa, FL 33602

(813) 223-4250

http://www.channelsidebayplaza.com/

Lodging

Tampa Airport Marriott  (map it!)

Tampa International Airport

Tampa, FL 33607

(813) 879-5151

http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/tpaap-tampa-airport-marriott/

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