The Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL team has detailed plans to allow a limited number of fans at Raymond James Stadium for this Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Buccaneers will allow their longest-serving season pass members to attend the game as part of a soft opening of the 65,000-seat stadium. Fans with continuous membership since 1998 or earlier will have the first opportunity to purchase a limited number of tickets from Thursday.

The team will have a priority presale for the rest of its 2020 home schedule, with season pass members who kept their 2020 payments as credit towards 2021 having the opportunity to purchase limited tickets for up to two games.

The move to allow fans back into the stadium comes after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order moving the state into the last phase of its reopening plan. The Buccaneers, together with the Tampa Sports Authority and medical experts from AdventHealth, have developed a reopening plan to ensure the safety of all fans in attendance.

Socially distanced seating will form part of the plan, along with full mobile ticketing and cashless transactions, touchless hardware in toilets, enhanced sanitation measures and additional food preparation safety protocols at concessions areas.

Brian Ford, the Buccaneers’ chief operating officer, said: “The safety of all involved has been our No. 1 priority throughout this process. There simply is no way to replicate the energy and excitement that our fans provide for our players on the field. We remain thankful for the opportunity to experience this great season alongside our most passionate fans at Raymond James Stadium.”

The Buccaneers had previously announced that the Chargers game would take place without fans, with a view to welcoming fans back for the Green Bay Packers game on October 18.

A number of NFL teams have welcomed a small proportion of fans to their stadiums during the opening weeks of the season. The Denver Broncos welcomed 5,700 fans to Empower Field at Mile High yesterday (Sunday) – and there were also more than 1,800 cut-outs of South Park characters in the stands.

ESPN reports that the Broncos approached Comedy Central and South Park Studios over the possibility of placing characters from the popular animated sitcom – which is based on a fictional Colorado town – inside the stadium. The move proved popular among fans of the Broncos and the show, with the cost of production of the cut-outs being matched and donated to The Broncos Foundation.

Image: Jennifer Snyder/CC BY-SA 2.0/Edited for size