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Bucs fans turn out by the thousands for season opener at Raymond James

NFL experience
Posted at 10:11 PM, Sep 09, 2021

TAMPA, Fl — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in action for the season opener Thursday night meant fans celebrating all afternoon at tailgates outside Raymond James Stadium. It also meant the return of business for some neighbors after the pandemic’s big impact on last year’s season.

Alicia Reams lives steps away from the stadium and has fond memories of Bucs games.

“My son’s 28, and we’ve been doing it since he was 10,” said Reams. “We used to park cars, go to the game, and enjoy ourselves. It was really fun.”

Many people in the neighborhoods near the stadium have parked cars on their lawns before games for years. But Reams explains with the pandemic’s impact last year, there were challenges.

“It wasn’t even nothing. I didn’t even park hardly ever last year,” said Reams.

Though before Thursday’s game between the defending Super Bowl champs and the Dallas Cowboys, fans filled the streets: parking in yards, tailgating, and taking in a new season. For some fans, it’s the first time back inside the stadium in over a year.

“What it’s like to go back in there? I don’t know. I’m like a little kid back on Christmas Day. I couldn’t wait to get back here,” said Dwight Payne. “I missed all last year. I haven’t been home since 2019. I’m ready. I’m ready.”

The Bucs announced some health and safety protocols have been relaxed from last season, while others will remain in effect. This season, fans will not be temperature screened and masks are not required but are encouraged for indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status.

Season ticket holders like Carl Graham Lofton were thrilled to get inside the stadium with fellow fans.

“I’m going to be a little nervous because, with the COVID out there, that thing is serious, so I’m going to be a little nervous, but I’m going to have my mask, two or three of them on, but I got to do it, I got to do it!” said Lofton.