Tampa Plans For 'A Great Super Bowl' Despite COVID Uncertainty

TAMPA, FLA. — Santiago Corrada prides himself on being an eternal optimist, which may make him the right person to be planning Tampa’s upcoming Super Bowl party despite not knowing exactly how many people will actually be able to witness the spectacle at Raymond James Stadium.

A week after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the league has not yet determined how many fans will be able to attend Super Bowl LV, Corrada – the CEO of Visit Tampa Bay – said that the game’s attendance won't diminish the excitement level the city has in hosting its first Super Bowl since 2009.

The city will play host to the Super Bowl for the fifth time after the annual championship game has been played in Tampa previously in 2001, 1991 and 1984 in addition to 2009. But given the uncertainty that has come along with everything else in 2020 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Corrada said that he is certain Tampa will remain up for the challenge of putting on a memorable event ahead of the Feb. 7 title tilt.

“I don’t think (not knowing the capacity limits) creates as big of a problem for us as people think,” Corrada told Patch in a telephone interview on Monday. “Obviously, we’d love to know if it’s going to be 100 percent capacity at the stadium and if it’s going to be full of fans, but we don’t know that. I don’t think in December, you can predict what February looks like so the planning has been as normal as you can possibly have it under the circumstances.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said last week that safety will remain the top priority as Tampa hosts the Super Bowl on Feb. 7 (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said last week that safety will remain the top priority as Tampa hosts the Super Bowl on Feb. 7 (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The NFL announced in October that the game would be played with the site at 20 percent capacity. Games played at Raymond James Stadium have been played at 25 percent capacity since Week 6, which has allowed an estimated 16,000 fans to take in Buccaneers home games. Gov. Ron DeSantis gave stadiums the green light to operate at full capacity during Florida’s Phase 3 reopening plan, but the NFL has never allowed more than 25 percent of stadiums to be full while continuing to monitor events as they have happened.

Goodell told reporters last week that the league would bring in “as many fans as we can safely do” for the Super Bowl but that the priority remains on fan safety “whosever’s in.” That will also be the priority for other events, including the annual Super Bowl Experience and NFL Live events that the host city holds in advance of the game, Corrada said.

All of the fan-facing events will go on as planned following safety guidelines, which will allow for Super Bowl week to take on a normal feel despite any lack of normalcy that has come about amid the pandemic.

“I think we have to be very flexible and very patient as we’ve been throughout this pandemic,” Corrada said. “…Without knowing what the vaccine is going to do, without knowing what treatments are going to do, who’s going to get vaccinated, we are planning the best way we can with obviously some variables unknown.”

He added: "Nothing fazes us. We adapt, we're flexible, we're patient. People here, their hair doesn't catch on fire."

Corrada said that there is always some level of unknowns as the two competing teams not being determined until the NFC and AFC championship games are played. But because a large number of fans come to the host city regardless if their team is involved, the fact the Super Bowl manages to attract fans who just want to be part of the game’s vibe draws its own attention, Corrada said. The fact Tampa can offer favorable weather and plenty of other attractive entertainment options certainly helps as the city plans to host the game without knowing exactly what it will look like.

Last week, the NFL remained confident that it could safely host a Super Bowl despite the fact Florida remained in the White House Coronavirus Task Report’s “red zone” with more than a 10.1 percent positivity rate. Hillsborough County, meanwhile, has remained in the “orange zone” with a positivity rate that is less than double-digits. Corrada remains anxious to move ahead with the activities that surround the Super Bowl, knowing the event will go on safely regardless of the uncertainty that exists moving forward.

“What city wouldn’t like to be on that stage coming into a new year filled with so much hope and optimism?” Corrada said. “I think the excitement around a Super Bowl is going to be there, I think you’ve seen fans come out to games when they’ve been allowed to and we’ve been very particular here in Tampa about safety and wearing masks and social distancing and I think we’re going to see if we have to have a lot of requirements in place to protect fans and locals alike that those are going to be in place and we’re going to have a great Super Bowl. ...I really believe that."

This article originally appeared on the Tampa Patch