Raymond James Stadium undergoes quick transformation for today’s Outback Bowl

The transformation began almost immediately after the Bucs win over Carolina on Sunday.
The transformation began almost immediately after the Bucs win over Carolina on Sunday.

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Thousands of collegiate football fans will pack Raymond James Stadium Monday afternoon for the 31st Annual Outback Bowl.

Getting the field ready for the game between the University of Florida and the University of Iowa was quite the task. Shortly after Sunday’s NFL game between Tampa Bay and Carolina ended, more than 100 people worked diligently to get the grounds in tip-top shape for Monday’s 1pm kickoff – and they aren’t done yet.

Before fans can pack the stands, a lot of work has to be done at the stadium.

“It’ll be a very long night,” explained Wayne Ward, turf manager for the game. “[I] probably won’t get to bed tonight.”

As soon as the final gun sounded in the Bucs, 17-16, victory over the Panthers, everything NFL and Buccaneers was replaced by images of Gators and Hawkeyes. The hardest part is getting the playing surface up to specifications.

“All of that grass comes out that we’ve been growing at the farm for that particular reason,” Ward said of the process. “Then everything else on the field has to get painted.”

It will cost in excess of $50,000 for Ward and his staff to get the turf just right. But that is just part of the transformation process.

“We have to have a police escort to bring the sod in,” Ward says.

Why does the special turf get such special treatment? For the Outback Bowl officials one of the biggest collegiate football games of the year should get nothing less.

“We’re in that New Year’s day line up with the Rose Bowl the Sugar Bowl, the Cotton Bowl and the Outback Bowl,” says Mike Schulze, the Outback Bowl’s director of communications and sponsorships. “People from 40 different states bought tickets to this game and the Tampa economy is bound to feel that.”

In the three-plus decades the game has called Tampa home, it’s brought in over a billion dollars to the local economy. If you still want to attend there are plenty of good seats still available.

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