raymond james stadium in tampa, fla., preparing for super bowl lv

Familiar turf: Home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and affectionately known to Tampans as “Ray Jay,” Raymond James Stadium is playing host to Super Bowl LV, Sunday, Feb. 7.

My District: Is Hosting Super Bowl LV

By Doug McPherson | Feb. 3, 2021 | State Legislatures Magazine

“My District” gives NCSL members a chance to tell us about life in the places they represent, from the high-profile events to the virtues only locals know about.

Florida Senator Janet Cruz (D) was born just 6 miles from where Raymond James Stadium now sits in Tampa, home of the 2021 Super Bowl. A fourth-generation resident and a descendent of factory workers, Cruz grew up poor but earned a degree from a local community college and worked as an optician and health care executive. She entered state politics in 2010, winning a seat to represent District 62 in the House of Representatives, where she served as the deputy whip from 2010 to 2012 and minority leader from 2016 to 2018.

Voters elected her to the state senate in 2018, and she represents District 18, which includes the stadium.

A week before the big game, which pits the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Kansas City Chiefs, State Legislatures magazine caught up with Cruz to ask her a few questions.

This has been a dark and difficult year for everyone but having Super Bowl LV in our city adds a bright spot, and we’re confident in our team. —Florida Senator Janet Cruz

Are you a Buccaneers fan? If so, what do you like about the team?

Yes, I have … been a fan through the bad times and the good. As of right now, one of my favorite things about the Buccaneers is the greatest of all time, Tom Brady. I love my husband, but I love Tom Brady too and my husband is OK with it.

If you’ve visited the stadium, do you have any favorite memories?

Yes, I used to go to games with my husband, who I was dating at the time, and I suffered through seats in the nosebleed sections. But I definitely wouldn’t change a thing!

Are you going to the Super Bowl?

I will not be attending the Super Bowl, but I’ll be cheering them on raucously from my home, just a few miles down the road.

How do you and perhaps your constituents feel about having the hometown team in the game?

This has been a dark and difficult year for everyone but having Super Bowl LV in our city adds a bright spot, and we’re confident in our team. No team has ever hosted the Super Bowl in their stadium and been in it, so this is certainly an advantage for the Buccaneers. I know we’re electrified at the possibility of winning the Super Bowl right here in Tampa.

Is the legislature doing anything to mark the occasion? 

Myself and the Florida Senate president [Wilton Simpson (R)] have put forth a friendly wager to the lieutenant governor of Missouri [Mike Kehoe (R)] and the minority leader of the Missouri Senate, [John] Rizzo (D), who represents the district that the Kansas City Chiefs are located in. We’re so confident that the Buccaneers will win that we’re wagering fresh-from-Florida oranges from our Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and when [the Buccaneers] win, the gentlemen from Missouri will have to send us some world-famous Kansas City barbecue.

Have you sensed any jealousy from legislators in the Jacksonville and Miami areas?

None more than I typically sense from them about how fantastic Tampa is!

Note: The district that’s home to Raymond James Stadium is served in the Florida House by Representative Susan L. Valdés (D). We were unable to reach her for comment.

Doug McPherson is a Denver-based freelance writer.

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