Sports in the Tampa Bay Area
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers bring the excitement of the NFL to our area and although a seasonal sport, the fans stay in football mode year-round. The Buccaneers are in the Southern Division of the National Football Conference (NFC) and have established heated rivalries with fellow division teams; Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints and the Carolina Panthers. One of their hottest rivalries, with the Philadelphia Eagles was born in the playoffs and has continued ever since. The Buccaneers along with the Seattle Seahawks joined the NFL in 1976 as expansion teams. Having lost the first 26 games of their existence, the Buccaneers have righted the ship and have enjoyed success on the field, beginning with the hiring of Head Coach Tony Dungy in 1995. Dungy led the team into an era of respectability and handed the reigns to Jon Gruden in 2002. Gruden guided the Buccaneers to their first Superbowl win in 2003, capping a great eight years of football. From humble beginnings, to Superbowl Champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers give the Tampa Bay community something to stand up and cheer about.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Hockey in Florida? That was the question when Phil Esposito made the announcement of the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise in 1991. Along with his brother Tony, Phil brought the National Hockey League to southern Florida and thanks to an exciting first game in 1992, they planted good seeds in 11,000 seat Expo Hall. After that first season, the team moved to Pinellas County and played their home games in the “Thunderdome” where they set an NHL record for Playoff attendance. From there, they moved back to Tampa and into their current home, then St. Pete Time Forum (formerly known as the Ice Palace). In 2004, the Lightning won Lord Stanley’s Cup, electrifying the city with Bolt fever and bringing sports’ greatest trophy to the Sunshine State.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay area has enjoyed a long tradition of professional baseball, dating back to the early 1900’s. The problem has always been that the teams were just visiting for Spring Training. That was until 1995, when a group from Tampa Bay was awarded a Major League Baseball expansion team to be names the Tampa Bay Rays. Since that time, the Tampa Bay area has had its very own Major League Baseball franchise to give them a full season’s schedule and not just visit during the spring months. The team plays their home games at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg and brings baseball excitement to the home crowds night after night. Weather is not a factor in home games because the field is a dome stadium and offers a comfortable indoor experience.
Dunedin Blue Jays
In the heart of historical Dunedin Florida, sits Knology Park, home of the minor league Dunedin Blue Jays baseball team. Opening in 1990, the stadium seats 6,106 fans and has been home to many current Major League Baseball players during their days in the minor leagues. The Dunedin Blue Jays are an affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays are one of their minor league clubs. During the spring, the Toronto Blue Jays use the Dunedin facilities as their Spring Training home and enjoy the welcome they receive from fans with each new season. In 2006, the Blue Jays made it to the Florida State League Championship Series, losing to the St. Lucie Mets 3 games to 0.
Appropriately named, Legends Field in Tampa is not only home to the High-A affiliate of the New York Yankees major league baseball team, but home to lots of MLB history as well. The design of the field is based on the stadium in New York and has been home to many exciting minor league contests. The 10,386 seat facility opened in 1996 and is across the street from Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Visitors from New York have Legends Field on their “Must See” list and do not leave disappointed. Love ‘em or not, the Yankees have a strong fan base and have found a home in Tampa Bay.
The Clearwater Threshers are a Florida State League team based in Clearwater, and have brought exciting minor-league baseball to the area for many years. Prior to moving into their new home, Bright House Networks Field, the Threshers were known as the Phillies and played at Jack Russell Stadium. Their new stadium seats over 7000 fans and offers all the latest in fan and guest services. They are still an affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies and have launched many major league careers. For tickets and other information call 727-467-4457.
Tampa Bay Downs
And they’re off! Thoroughbred horse racing has found a home in the Tampa Bay area at the Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar. The one-mile dirt oval track has given racing fans countless exciting finishes and surprise contenders since its opening in 1926. Its history is not entirely made of horse racing, as in 1943 the grounds were used as an Army training facility. The track also offers live poker games and features a designated room with professional dealers and amenities.
For those that like to travel and like to see professional basketball, hop onto I-4 and head to Orlando and check out all the NBA has to offer with the Orlando Magic. Since 1989, the Magic have given a lot of trilling basketball memories to their fans as well as NBA fans around the nation. In 1992, the Magic selected Shaquille O’Neal with the first pick in the draft and that changed the entire persona of the young franchise. The addition of Shaq and Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway in the following year made the Magic a playoff contender that reached the NBA finals in 1995. They didn’t win the championship, but won the hearts of the fans in Orlando and secured their place in the NBA for many years to come.