Sports Teams of Tampa
The Tampa Bay Area is home to many sports teams and has a substantial history of sporting activity. Most of the region’s professional sports franchises use the name Tampa Bay as well as the reason why the Wikipedia page on the city’s sports is named “Sports in the Tampa Bay Area” instead of just Tampa is due to most sports teams wanting to represent the wider metropolitan area surrounding the bay instead of one particular municipality. Now, without further ado, let’s start discussing sports in the Tampa Bay Area, and first one we shall talk about is the sport of football.
Professional football first arrived in the Tampa Bay area in 1964, when the American Football League staged an exhibition game between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets. Five years later, the Miami Dolphins and the Minnesota Vikings faced off in a joint AFL-NFL preseason game prior to the 1969 season, the final one before the two leagues would merge.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (which fans affectionately call the Bucs’) of the NFL began play in old Tampa Stadium in 1976 as an expansion team. After losing an NFL-record 26 straight games to begin their existence, the Bucs reached the 1979 NFC Championship game only to sink back into futility with an NFL-record 14 straight losing seasons through the 1980s and early 1990s.
The franchise’s fortunes began a turnaround in the mid-90s under coach Tony Dungy, and the success continued after the team moved into newly built Raymond James Stadium in 1998. The upward trend culminated in the Bucs’ first championship at the end of the 2002 season under coach Jon Gruden, when they defeated the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII. The Bucs have made several playoff appearances since then but have not returned to the championship game. Dirk Koetter became the Bucs’ head coach beginning with the 2016 season.
As for the sport of hockey and the National Hockey League, the Tampa Bay Area is represented by the team of Tampa Bay Lightning. The NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning were established as an expansion franchise in 1992. They began play in the Florida State Fairgrounds’ Expo Hall in Tampa, then moved across the bay to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg (which was rechristened “The Thunderdome” at the time), and finally found a permanent home ice in the new Amalie Arena (originally known as the “Ice Palace”), located in the Channelside District of downtown Tampa. The “Bolts” won their first Stanley Cup championship at the end of the 2003–04 season, defeating the Calgary Flames in seven games. After a few losing seasons, the Lightning made it back to the Eastern Conference finals in 2011 under coach Guy Boucher. They have been coached by Jon Cooper since 2013.
Then for baseball, there’s the Tampa Bay Rays. The Tampa Bay Rays are an American professional baseball team based in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Rays compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member of the American League (AL) East division. Since its inception, the team’s home venue has been Tropicana Field.
Following nearly three decades of unsuccessfully trying to gain an expansion franchise or enticing existing teams to relocate to the Tampa Bay Area, an ownership group led by Vince Naimoli was approved on March 9, 1995. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays began play in the 1998 Major League Baseball season.