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How suite it is

The new stadium's many luxury suites are closer to the field and feature windows that can slide out of the way for an open-air feel.

By KYLE PARKS

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 18, 1998


TAMPA -- Luxury suites at the new Raymond James Stadium offer plenty of amenities, such as a wet bar, TVs, a private entrance and first-class food service.


photo
Skyboxes at the new stadium are much closer to the field than at the old Houlihan's.
[Times photo: Jim Damashe]
But the most noticeable improvement in the new suites compared with their predecessors at Houlihan's Stadium is less glamorous: Fresh air.

The 164 suites have retractable glass windows that can slide on a track, out of the suiteholders' view of the field. If the fans want to feel closer to the action, they can open the window; for air-conditioned comfort, they can close it.

"The windows are one of the first things people will notice," said Tampa Sports Authority spokesperson Barbara Casey. A number of other stadiums around the country, including Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville and Pro Player Stadium in Miami, have similar fresh-air windows in their suites.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the TSA initially planned for 70 to 90 suites in the new stadium, though the blueprints left room for as many as 164. Demand proved so great in recent months that the team decided to build all of them, paying the cost of construction for the extra suites itself.

The team won't comment on how many suites it has sold, though the answer is apparently most or all of them. Bucs officials won't say how much the suites cost or who the tenants are. But the average price is believed to be about $75,000 a year, compared to an average of $45,000 in the old Houlihan's Stadium.

By contrast, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays sold 58 suites at an average cost of $83,000 for baseball at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

At the Bucs' new venue, a few of the suites have been combined to make larger ones. For instance, Sykes Enterprises Inc. of Tampa is paying $85,000 for one suite, while chief executive John Sykes and his wife, Susan, paid for another suite next door so the two could be combined. In a few other cases, suites have been split up, so some suites are believed to be as affordable as $35,000.

For their money, most suiteholders get 16 seats, plus four bar stools, a refrigerator and five TVs. Almost all the suites have bathrooms, and they're in the middle of the stadium's seating, 65 to 78 feet from the field. That's a much better view than in the old stadium, where suites were on top of the stands, 118 to 141 feet from the field.

The better the seats, the higher the price. Of course, it's no surprise which company has one of the prime spots on the 50-yard line: Raymond James Financial Inc. The St. Petersburg financial services company got the suite as part of its naming rights deal, which starts at $2.15-million a year.

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