Given Florida’s temperate climate and reputation for long sunny days, it’s no surprise that professional sports have a huge presence in this southern state. Leading the way, the Tampa Area is home to many teams spanning the sports world from ever-popular professional baseball to the rapidly expanding sport of Rugby Union. Those visiting the Tampa area could easily make a vacation out of game-hopping from one sports facility to another, and since they’re all in and around the Tampa area it’s only a matter of how many games can you fit in while in town!
1. NHL Hockey
Tampa is home to the Tampa Bay Lightning professional hockey team and while you might think ice hockey wouldn’t exactly fit in with the Florida lifestyle, games at the Amalie Arena in Downtown Tampa are always packed. The team was formed in 1992 at the end of the NHL’s expansion era and even has a Stanley Cup Championship from 2003-2004 under their belt. To catch a home game, visit during the NHL regular season of late October to early April.
2. NFL Football
No American sports destination is complete without an NFL football team. The Tampa Bay Bucaneers play their home games out of Raymond James Stadium located just east of the Tampa International Airport. Added as an expansion team in 1976, the Bucs have one Super Bowl Championship from the 2002 season and their only Super Bowl appearance. The NFL regular season runs from September to December.
3. MLB Spring Training
Where do the pros go during the off-season? Florida! Many major league baseball teams call Florida home during the spring training season while they wait for warmer temperatures in their northern home towns and with 3 major teams, the Tampa area is the best spot around to see pre-season baseball. The Toronto Blue Jays play in the charming town of Dunedin at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, The Philadelphia Phillies play at Bright House Field in Clearwater, and the New York Yankees play at George M Steinbrenner Field just east of Tampa International Airport. If you’ve ever thought about checking out the Grapefruit League, Tampa is your spot for the ultimate up-close baseball experience.
4. MLB Baseball
Of course Tampa isn’t just the home of baseball Spring training, they have their own team to cheer for come regular season. The Tampa Bay Rays play at Tropicana Field in nearby St. Petersburg and once the northern teams leave the area the focus shifts and everyone cheers for the Rays. A relatively new team, the Rays first took the field in 1998 and made it to the World Series in 2008 (though losing to the Philadelphia Phillies). Despite not having won a World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays continue to excite crowds and remain a playoff contender year after year.
Despite being often debated as a sport or an activity, golf remains synonymous with the sunshine state. In the Tampa area alone, there are reportedly over 90 public golf courses and from PGA Tour host courses to small lesser known clubs, there’s something available for all skill levels and all budgets. If you just can’t make it through the golfing off-season, head down to Tampa where it’s always a great time to hit the links.
6. Rugby Union
One of the fastest growing sports in North America, Rugby Union has roots in the Tampa Area with 2 teams; The Tampa Bay Krewe and the Bay Area Pelicans. The Tampa Krewe are the professional team and complete in Division I and III of USA Rugby. The Krewe play their home games at Cuscaden Park in historic Ybor City. If you’re looking for an exciting new sports experience make your way to Tampa and check out Rugby Union today.
While the popularity of soccer in North America may still be relatively new, The Tampa Bay Rowdies of the North American Soccer League (NASL) have been playing for decades already. Originally established in 1975, the Rowdies were actually the first professional sports franchise in the Tampa Area. To catch an exciting home game, head to Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg but plan ahead because games are always packed!
8. Arena Football
While NFL is always exciting, the Buccaneers aren’t the only Football team in town; the Tampa Bay Storm play in the Arena Football League which was formed in 1987. The Storm are the only remaining original franchise in the league which offers a more accessible option for football fans without sacrificing any action. The Tampa Bay Storm share their recently renovated Amalie Arena with the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.
9. College Sports
In America, college sports are more than a big deal, sometimes even having a stronger fan base than professional teams and the Tampa Area is no exception. Home to the University of South Florida, the schools USF Bulls compete in the NCAA Division I level and the school’s football team play their home games at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, also home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.