Super Bowl 55 to have 'as many fans' as allowed safely

By Rick Stroud
Tampa Bay Times/TNS

TAMPA, Fla. - After spending about a quarter and a half in seats at Raymond James Stadium watching the Bucs-Vikings game with his family on a sun-splashed afternoon Sunday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he felt completely safe with the COVID-19 protocols and social-distancing.

The announced attendance was 16,301.

But just 55 days from Super Bowl 55, Goodell still has no idea about the seating capacity for the league’s championship game.

“I think the way we’re approaching that is we’re going to be taking that not on a day-by-day basis, but obviously the safety of our fans and the community are going to be No. 1,” Goodell said during a conference call with Tampa Bay media Monday. “We will be working with public officials and the health officials to define that as we get closer to the game.

“We’re going to try to bring as many fans as we can safely do into Raymond James Stadium, but we’ll be working with the local officials on that. ... I’m not sure there’s a specific number that we are confident saying this is what it will be. But obviously our focus will be keeping them safe, whoever is there. ... We will not make projections about what the current environment will be 55 days from now.”

Some of the other items Goodell touched on regarding the Super Bowl:

- The NFC and AFC championship teams may not arrive until sometime late in Super Bowl week. Typically, participating teams locate to the host city about a week before the game. “We’re going to do whatever we think is going to keep our personnel safe,” Goodell said. ... Obviously, as we get closer, we’ll make those determinations.”

-- Asked if Tampa will receive additional consideration for future Super Bowls since COVID-19 will reduce the economic impact of hosting the game, Goodell said only that city “is going to do a terrific job, and that’s something the owners will always take into consideration when they make the next decision.”

- Goodell said Tampa Bay has embraced the challenge of hosting a Super Bowl during such a difficult time for the country. “I think no one probably imagined the challenges and the circumstances that the country would soon face coming out of that,” Goodell said. “But I’m certain with the host committee, with our staff, we’ll rise to the occasion and take advantage and define this moment in a very positive way. We believe this Super Bowl 55 will be one of the most unifying, memorable and meaningful Super Bowls in our history.”

- Goodell said the league and its players have worked hard to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and hope that effort will continue during Super Bowl week. “We as a league have less than 1 percent positivity and we have worked hard with the players’ association, with medical experts to take the necessary steps to not be part of the problem but actually be part of the solution and try to do things in a way that are responsible and safe, not just for our personnel but for the communities we’re operating in,” he said.

-- Goodell indicated that premier Super Bowl attractions such as Media Day and the NFL Honors program will be more made-for-TV events, similar to what the league did during the draft.

- Players, coaches and NFL staff will not be given priority access to COVID-19 vaccines before the Super Bowl, Goodell said. The vaccines will go first to medical personnel, first responders and those most at risk, he said.

- Goodell said his game-day experience at Raymond James Stadium made him and his family feel safe with all of the protocols in place. “I was incredibly impressed with the fans,” he said. “Everyone looked comfortable, happy, safe. We felt entirely safe. People wearing PPE and keeping social-distancing. A lot of assistance around the stadium as I walked around. ... I just thought it was incredibly well done, having been in several stadiums.”

- Goodell said the renovations made to the stadium will enhance the Super Bowl experience. “I would say the stadium looks fantastic,” he said. “Obviously, moving around quite a bit yesterday, I got to see a lot of it. I know the fans will enjoy the renovations that have taken place. The new video boards, the clubs and the suites, the sound improvements and the LED light system, there’s no question Raymond James Stadium will be ready for Super Bowl 55 and be a great stage for the game.”

Fans are socially distanced in the 300 level during the first quarter of the game between the Green Bay Packers at Buccaneers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.