The Tampa Bay area boasts a number of great professional sports teams in almost every major sport, as well as a minor league club for the most famous team in baseball.
Professional-level sports in Tampa – outside of minor league baseball – actually started with soccer. The original Tampa Bay Rowdies started play in 1975 in the North American Soccer League, which at the time was the top-tier of soccer in the United States. They won the championship in their inaugural year.
But the team perhaps best associated with the area started play the next year – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League.
Here’s a list of the professional sports teams that call the Tampa Bay area home.
The Bucs – as most locals call them – started play in 1976, joining the NFL the same year as the Seattle Seahawks. They became famous – or perhaps infamous – for their bright orange uniforms and “Bucco Bruce,” the knife-biting pirate on their helmets. After years of poor play and a uniform change in the 1990s, the team won a Super Bowl in January 2003 in the “Pirate Bowl” against the Oakland Raiders.
The Bucs currently play in the National Football Conference’s South Division. The other teams in the division are the Atlanta Falcons, the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints. They play at Raymond James Stadium, located on Dale Mabry Highway north of Interstate 275.
The Lighting, who play in the National Hockey League, began play in 1992. They played their first games in the Expo Hall at the Florida State Fairgrounds, then moved to the Florida Suncoast Dome in St. Petersburg, which was nicknamed The ThunderDome. In 1996, the team moved to their current home, Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa (originally known as the Ice Palace).
In 2004, the team won the Stanley Cup, hockey’s top prize. They currently play in the Atlantic Division with some of hockey’s most storied franchises; Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Rays – originally known as the Devil Rays – began play in Major League Baseball in 1998. The team’s home field throughout their existence has been Tropicana Field. This is the same stadium where the Lightning played (when it was known as the ThunderDome). After 10 years of losing baseball, the team had a winning record in 2008 and made it all the way to the World Series, losing to the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Rays play in the American League Eastern Division along with the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays.
A new Rowdies team – originally called FC Tampa Bay – began play in St. Petersburg in 2010. They play in the North American Soccer League (NASL), which is now the second tier of soccer in the United States. They play their home games at Al Lang Field, a former minor league baseball park that is now a soccer-only stadium and was renovated in 2015. In 2012, the Rowdies won the NASL championship, bringing the second soccer championship to Tampa Bay.
The Storm began playing in the Arena Football League in 1991. This after having moved from Pittsburgh (where they were called the Gladiators). The team has won five Arena Football League championships and is one of two teams (the other is the Orlando Predators) who have played the longest in one city. They also played in the ThunderDome between 1991 and 1996, but now play in the Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa.
The Tampa area is also home to the Single A farm club of the New York Yankees, which plays in the Florida State League. The team plays at George M. Steinbrenner Field (formerly Legends Field) on Dale Mabry Highway.
So if you are looking to watch professional sports teams, there are plenty of options in Tampa Bay. Or you might want to come down for a Super Bowl. They’ve held four in Tampa, so far. Also, in 2017, Raymond James Stadium will host the college football national championship game.