Are you ready for some football? The NFL's opening week kicked off Wednesday night and Tampa Bay Bucs fans are hoping for a big turnaround this season.
But unless you're at Raymond James Stadium, you might not be able to watch the Bucs take the field. At the moment, it is looking that way. There are still several thousand tickets unsold. The Bucs need to sell at least 85 percent of their tickets by Thursday at 4 p.m. or the game gets blacked out.
What's the reason this team can't get fans in seats? The Bucs are banking on a bunch of new bells and whistles -- as well as talent -- to get fans back to the stadium this year.
"When you don't win, I think it makes it hard for people to invest in something," said former Buccaneer Jorge Diaz. "I think there's been a cry out there from the fan, they don't feel that the ownership has made an investment, and they clearly have."
For those fans who value live football, but still want tons of information at their fingertips at this weekend's Carolina game, they're going to be unveiling a brand new wifi system -- free, stadium-wide. Also, a brand new replay system, so you can see that play if you didn't catch it right when it happened.
Plus, a host of all brand new enhancements that should make the fan experience awesome. But is all that enough to get fans in the seats?
"I think part of the problem is so many people in Tampa are not from Tampa," said Shawn Sloan, who moved here 10 years ago. "So we kind of support our home teams, at least I do."
We checked in with the Sloans at the Press Box restaurant in Tampa. They've been here for a decade, but grew up loyal to another team with a storied history.
"Da' Bears! The Bears!," laughed her husband Curtis Sloan.
"What about our Bucs?" we asked.
"I like the Bucs. It's just, when we first moved in '02, that's when we were hearing the Alstott, Derrick Brooks, the names, and we loved them. And as the team started not being as good, we started losing attention as well. I still watch 'em, but I'm not as in-tune with the Bucs as I once was," said Sloan.
"Who's the corner for the Bucs now?" we asked Wesley Sloan, who is a corner on the football team at Robinson High School.
"Aqib Talib and, what's-his-name. Number 31. With long dreads."
The young Sloan couldn't quite remember the other guy's name -- for the record, he was talking about E.J. Biggers -- and that's part of the problem. Name and star power seem to escape the Bucs for now.
It's a sentiment echoed by Diaz.
"There are no superstars on that team, and there haven't been for awhile," he continued. "The lack of that star power sometimes doesn't draw people to the stadium and there's always an argument, you can say, hey, I'd buy a ticket just to see that guy play."
So, who's that guy?
"We don't know yet," said Diaz.
Diaz is confident fans on the fence will have something to cheer about and rally behind once they see what this team can do this year. And he hopes that the blackout threat should disappear by mid-season. Time will tell.
The deadline is Thursday at 4 p.m.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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