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Brady’s impact to the bay extended far beyond the gridiron

Mark Parker

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A sellout crowd packed into Raymond James Stadium to watch Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers begin their title defense against the Atlanta Falcons on Jan. 16. Photo by Lonn Anderson.

Much has been made about Tom Brady’s accomplishments on the field and contributions to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ success over the last two years, but what about the football legend’s other impacts on the Tampa Bay region?

The Bucs, as with any NFL franchise, contribute millions to the local economy – both directly and indirectly. That economic impact jumps when the team is a perennial Super Bowl contender. Winning teams and their cities host several nationally televised games throughout the season, along with the pomp and circumstance that comes with bringing in the best teams and their fans from around the country for playoff matchups.

According to December 2021 report by Pinellas County Economic Development (PCED), while it is hard to precisely pinpoint the economic impact the Bucs provide to the Tampa Bay area, “it is likely above a hundred million” annually. While the numbers may be hard to quantify, several area leaders are sure of the positive effects of having a championship-winning team and an all-time-great quarterback calling Tampa Bay home.

“Tom Brady is undoubtedly one of the best athletes in history,” said J.P. DuBuque, president and CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Council. “The visibility for our region that TB12 brought, along with the other sports franchises, positions us as a top tier region and a place for winners.”

For two years, that visibility was on constant display. From initially renting baseball Hall-of-Famer Derek Jeter’s Davis Islands mansion to closing on his Clearwater estate to purchasing a new $6 million yacht, almost everything Brady and his former supermodel wife Giselle Bundchen did made national news. National news with Tampa Bay as the setting.

According to the PCED report, the Bucs have a team value of $2.94 billion, and Raymond James Stadium boasts net revenues of $364 million. After winning the Super Bowl in February 2021, the Buccaneers team value increased by 29% – even after losing $119 million in stadium revenues for the 2020-21 season due to Covid.

While the Tampa Bay area began its surge in economic growth before 2020, DuBuque noted the arrival of Brady cemented the region as not only “Champa Bay” but also an ideal work, live and play destination.

“His journey to the Buccaneers was so timely,” said DuBuque. “He brought his incredible talent to our region at the same time the Lightning, Rays and Rowdies were all playing at the top of their respective games, and Tampa Bay was getting recognition as a growing business location … creating a perfect storm.”

During January’s State of the Bay event, just a day before reports of Brady’s imminent retirement flooded the airwaves, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor relayed the value that having an iconic athlete and championship-winning franchises brings to an area.

“If you look at the value of Tampa Bay winning two Stanley Cups, winning the AL Championship, winning the Super Bowl – that puts you on the world stage,” said Castor.

“We literally had businesses that moved to the city of Tampa after they came to the Super Bowl.”

Castor said successful sports franchises not only provide a city with another showcase, but they can also bring the entire community together.

“ … everything that attracts businesses, young professionals and families,” added Castor. “Whatever it is that you can provide as an incentive to not only the individuals that live in your community but those looking to relocate.”

Chris Steinocher, president and CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, said Brady brought confidence to the region. Confidence for businesses to invest in the area and confidence for residents to know they live in a good location. He said people tend to invest more in themselves and their surrounding community when they feel positive and proud.

Steinocher said Brady also helped change the impression of the area, an area that many people around the country still thought of as “heaven’s waiting room” or the embodiment of the movie Cocoon.

“Well, now the impression of Tampa Bay is that these guys are rocking it at a high level, and they live the best quality of life,” he said. “This is a different Tampa Bay, and that’s what Tom Brady did for us.”

Steinocher believes that the Buccaneers’ boat parade following their 2021 championship, and the famous shot of Brady tossing the Lombardi Trophy across the Hillsborough River, provided a vivid illustration of the Tampa Bay lifestyle to people across the world.

Steinocher said that imagery probably did more for the area than anything that Brady accomplished on the gridiron. People who may never follow football saw a large group of people, including one of the best athletes in the world, having the time of their lives on the water with downtown Tampa as the backdrop.

“In Pinellas County alone … we’re getting a million dollars a day in new wealth from net migration,” said Steinocher. “When you get those kinds of dollars coming in every day, it is a part of something else going on.”

Brady announced his retirement through a lengthy Instagram post Feb. 1. Through eight slides, Brady thanked everyone, from his trainers to his family. While Brady did not mention New England or the Patriots, he did thank St. Petersburg. He also asked for an invitation to the next boat parade.

Steinocher said he had a tear in his eye when Brady – who many consider the greatest quarterback of all time – mentioned the City of St. Petersburg. The retirement announcement – including St. Petersburg’s mention as a fun place to live – subsequently went viral and will go down in the annals of sports history.

“That’s all we ever wanted – to be a part of this whole thing,” he said. “As a new guy in our community that’s fallen in love with it, he sees there’s a lot of folks who root for the Tampa Bay Bucs in this unique community.

“A good leader really makes people feel like they all belong, and he did that for all of us.”

 

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