Tampa Stadium (known as Houlihan's Stadium from 1996 to 1998, and nicknamed "The Big Sombrero") was a sports venue located at 4201 North Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa, Florida, USA. The stadium is most closely associated with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers National Football League franchise, which played all of their home games in the stadium from 1976 through 1997.
The stadium was designed for American football, and built with an initial seating capacity of 45,000. Two large concrete structures built along the sidelines provided the major facilities. Bench seating was arranged on a single tier, so that every seat had a direct and unobstructed view of the playing field.
When the sun came out, the stadium became a very warm venue for fans and players. Fans could retreat to the interior decks under the seats, where concessions and restrooms were located. Players and personnel on the field had no way to beat the heat, except for the tunnels to the locker rooms, and cooling equipment placed near the sideline benches. During the summer and early autumn, games often started during or after sunset to avoid the extreme afternoon heat and humidity. Games usually started at 11 a.m. or 1 p.m. during the rest of the year.
The stadium's natural grass playing surface was highly crowned to provide rapid drainage during Florida's intense thunderstorms. The sidelines were at least 18 inches lower than the center of the field.
The stadium's original tenant was the University of Tampa Spartans football team. The Spartans hosted the stadium's first sporting event on November 4, 1967 when they played the University of Tennessee. The Spartans used Tampa Stadium as their home field until the university disbanded the football program in 1974.
Skyboxes were added in the mid-1980s by expanding the stadium's existing press boxes. The stadium's maximum seating capacity was 74,301.
The Super Bowl was held there twice: Super Bowl XVIII in January 1984, and Super Bowl XXV in January 1991. The NFC Championship of the 1979 season and two other Buccaneers playoff games have been held there.
The original stadium hosted four NFL preseason games. On August 10, 1968, the Washington Redskins played the Atlanta Falcons in the stadium's first professional sporting event. The Baltimore Colts played three preseason games in the stadium in 1972. These preseason games gave NFL owners and officials ample opportunity to assess the Tampa Bay area and the stadium.
The stadium's name was changed after the Malcolm Glazer family purchased the Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise in 1995. The Glazers also purchased the stadium's naming rights from the Tampa Sports Authority. The stadium's second and final name advertised one of the Glazer family's business ventures, the Houlihan's restaurant chain.
For the 1990 season, large flagpoles were mounted on the upper rim of the stadium as part of a renovation that included the addition of a JumboTron screen in the south end zone and smaller scoreboards above the field-level tunnels in two corners of the stadium. The poles were used to fly large flags for each of the NFL's teams until 1997, when the Buccaneers adopted a uniform redesign featuring a red flag on their helmets. Large versions of the flag were hoisted on the stadium's flagpoles when the Buccaneers penetrated their opponents' 20-yard line. The franchise continued this practice when it moved to Raymond James Stadium next door a year later.
The Buccaneers' final game at the stadium was an NFL wild card playoff game against the Detroit Lions on December 28, 1997, which the Buccaneers won 20-10. Just under nine months later, the Buccaneers moved into Raymond James Stadium.
The stadium was the venue of two memorable concerts by English rock band Led Zeppelin. On May 5, 1973 the band attracted 56,800 people, which at the time represented the largest audience for a single artist performance in history, breaking the record set by The Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965. On June 3, 1977 the band returned to the venue but the concert was cut short due to a large thunderstorm. An audience riot followed resulting in several arrests and injuries, with police ultimately using tear gas to break up the crowd.
Between 1977 and 1979, the Can-Am Bowl was played in the stadium. From 1986 to 1998, the Outback Bowl (formerly the Hall of Fame Bowl) was held there for college football. In January 1999, this game was relocated to Raymond James Stadium.
Between 1983 and 1985, the Tampa Bay Bandits, one of the twelve original USFL franchises, were the stadium's third professional tenant. The Bandits enjoyed strong ticket sales and fan support, and were one of the few USFL teams to stay in their original city and stadium for the league's three seasons.
Major League Soccer placed one of its original teams in Tampa in 1996. The Tampa Bay Mutiny were the stadium's fourth and final professional tenant. The Mutiny used the stadium as their home field for their first three seasons, and moved to Raymond James Stadium in 1999.
The University of South Florida Bulls football team played its initial season at the stadium in 1997, becoming the stadium's second and final collegiate tenant. The Bulls played the final football game at the stadium on September 12, 1998, defeating Valparaiso 51-0 before moving to Raymond James Stadium for their next home game on October 3, 1998.
Upon buying the Buccaneers in 1995, new owner Malcolm Glazer suggested that he might move the franchise to another city unless a new stadium was built at taxpayer's expense. . To accommodate these demands, the community built Raymond James Stadium just south of Tampa Stadium in 1997-98 . In early 1999, the older stadium was demolished. The land was cleared and converted into a parking lot.