Raymond James Stadium was designed to have it all at a relatively affordable price.
By WAYNE WASHINGTON
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 18, 1998
As the wish lists of team owners go, this one was fairly simple.
The Bucs owners wanted a stadium with 65,000 seats and room for 12,000 club seats and 170 luxury suites.
The Tampa Sports Authority, which manages the stadium, wanted something, too. It wanted a price tag no higher than $168.5-million.
TSA and the Bucs owners then turned to Kansas City-based HOK Sports Facilities, the No. 1 stadium designer in the country.
HOK plugged those wishes into a computer program and out came Raymond James Stadium.
A peek into the women's restroom on the stadium's upper east side. [Times photo: Jim Damaske]
However, the stadium HOK first designed had circular ramps at its four corners, like Pro Player Stadium in Miami. Those ramps cost more, so the more standard rectangular ramps were used.
But the stadium's look is less a function of trying to be unique and more driven by a need to get all the Bucs and TSA wanted in one facility, said Henry Saavedra, TSA's executive director.
"We didn't try to duplicate (Houlihan's Stadium)," Saavedra said. "This is a different stadium with a different feel."
Bits and pieces were borrowed from stadiums across the country. The massive glass facade is similar to Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville. The rectangular look, which allows 65 percent of the seating to be on the sidelines, is similar Pro Player's.
Few stadiums have as many bells and whistles.
Fans can use 10 elevators to get their seats, which are theater-style with cup holders (no more uncomfortable aluminum bleachers). Need money to get that hot dog or soda? The stadium has eight automated teller machines. Getting to the restroom after that second or third soda shouldn't be that tough, either. There are 44 restrooms.
Raymond James also has two video boards, 68 entrances, 1,158 televisions and 12 security cameras.
"We're convinced this is going to be the finest facility in the country," Bucs spokesman Reggie Roberts said.
Saavedra said the stadium also was designed with other sports in mind. "The field is 57 feet wider (than the one at Houlihan's) with a 6-inch crown as opposed to a 2-foot crown to accommodate soccer," Saavedra said. "This is very soccer-friendly."
To make having concerts in the stadium easier, the south end zone seats are retractable. Tractor pulls and other events that require large machines to be hauled onto the field will be easier to host because the corner entrances are wider than the ones at Houlihan's.
Other design features won't be as noticeable. A service level was built under the first 26 rows of seats. "We can bring in supply trucks and not be in the way of the patrons," Saavedra said. "In the old stadium you'd have equipment and the players going through the fans."
Escalators were unheard of in the old stadium. RJS has 20.
[Times photo: Jim Damaske]
Dennis Wellner, senior vice president of HOK Sports, said the design and follow-through on the project went well.
"These projects are extremely complicated," he said. "They are nerve-racking for everyone involved."
Saavedra said the stadium would look very different if the budget hadn't been so tight.
"I might get in trouble for saying this, but I wish we hadn't put such a limit on what we could spend," Saavedra said. "But hindsight is 20-20. The referendum (on a tax to generate money for the stadium) did pass, and we have more money than we thought we would."
A domed stadium would have been ideal, Saavedra said. It also would have cost considerably more.
"A dome was never considered because it cost too much," Saavedra said.
"We will have the nicest open-air stadium in the country. I'm very proud of that."