Pregaming begins hours before Bucs kickoff with NFL Experience

All eyes will be on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they they kick off the NFL regular season and start their journey to become repeat Super Bowl champions.

Thursday will be a very busy day in Tampa with a sold-out crowd packing Raymond James Stadium tonight and the Dallas Cowboys in town.

The NFL is taking over part of downtown for a free and fun way to get everyone pumped up for game day. The NFL Kickoff Experience opens up at noon at Julian B. Lane Park and promises to bring even more fun than in February: Appearances by Bucs legends, autographs, selfies with the Lombardi Trophy, the showcase of all 55 Super Bowl rings, all kinds of interactive football skills contests for the kids – or fully-grown adults — and a pre-game concert by Ed Sheeran.

It’s all absolutely free, masks encouraged but not required, and all you need to get in is the NFL One Pass app. Ed Sheeran will perform at Julian B. Lane at 7 p.m.

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Kickoff is at 8:20 p.m.

If you’re lucky enough to have a ticket for tonight’s sellout, there are a few things fans must know before they go. RayJay remains cashless this season for all concessions and, once again, no bags allowed in the building.

Buccaneers 2021 season preview: Book that boat parade

There is a reason only one team in the last two decades has been able to repeat as Super Bowl champion. Good thing the last quarterback to do it is the same fresh-faced kid wearing Number 12 for the Bucs now.

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Fans are encouraged to arrive early and be in their seats by 8 p.m. Big crowds are expected in the area as well so if you don’t have to pass by the stadium tonight, this would be a good area to avoid unless traffic is your thing.

Officials are expecting heavy traffic on the main roads around the stadium: Dale Mabry, Himes, Columbus and Martin Luther King Jr. 

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Tom McEwen Boulevard will be closed between Dale Mabry Highway and Himes Avenue.

Parking lots will open at 4:45 p.m. RVs can park in Lot 14 and there is no overnight parking.