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What happened during the first half of 2024 in Tampa Bay?

We’re officially halfway through the year. It’s time to look back.

The flotilla at Gasparilla. There are hundreds of boats behind the pirate ship, all riding toward the City of Tampa during the annual event. There is smoke emerging from the pirate ship.

Gasparilla saw 300,000+ attendees.

Photo by Kiera Andrews

And just like that, we’re closer to 2025 than 2023. The first six months of the year are gone, but certainly not forgotten. Here are some of our area’s top stories (so far) in 2024:

Development

It’s been a big half-year for stadium news. The Rays’ new stadium is making progress, and we’ve seen several enticing renderings — both for the stadium and the surrounding Historic Gas Plant District redevelopment in St. Pete.

Over in Tampa, USF’s football stadium plan is coming to fruition, with the school choosing Manhattan Construction Company, H.J. Russell & Company, and DuCon, LLC, as the construction managers. Tampa Bay Sun FC’s renovation of Howard Blake High School’s football stadium began in February, ahead of their inaugural USL Super League campaign.

In June, we got more insight into the City of Tampa’s West Riverwalk building plans, as well as approval to nearly double the project’s budget to $56.8 million. The expansion will feature two miles along the waterfront, plus an additional 10 miles of continuous bike and pedestrian pathway in the surrounding area.

The much-anticipated Ybor Harbor received City Council approval in April, which will add a mixed-use development introduced by the Ybor Channel. Along with plans for the next phase of Water Street Tampa’s future, the area is set for plenty of change.

We also found out about the redevelopment of the Central City YMCA’s Tampa Heights property. Officials gave their approval to the $600 million project in March.

A large pavillion-style stadium features large windows with palm trees right outside and people milling about.

Construction on the Rays’ new stadium is expected to start in January 2025.

Rendering via Rays and Populous

Culture

In June, we found out Tampa is getting its first ever Black History Museum, located in the middle of the historic Scrub neighborhood. The museum will be inside the St. James Episcopal Church — built in 1895 — and is set to open by the end of 2025.

Around there parts, our plates are full with restaurant + bar openings. Here are some that have opened in 2024 in Tampa Bay:

  • In February, Casa Cami became Tampa’s newest rooftop spot, and Oxford Design’s latest success — we chatted with its designers.
  • Minano Ramen opened its doors in March. This one is City Editor Patrick-approved.
  • Cocktail lounge Alter Ego + Italian-inspired restaurant Ash both opened in Water Street Tampa in April.
  • New retail + dining hub Ten Rooms Ybor hit the scene in April.
  • Armature Works debuted Ling’s Dumplings and Han Hand Roll Bar in early May.
  • Rob Gronkowski was at the opening of Greenlane’s second location in May — we got a chance to meet him.

In other restaurant news, East Tampa’s iconic Brocato’s Sandwich Shop declared bankruptcy. Serving the area since 1948, its deviled crab is the stuff of local legend.

Another storied TBAY institution — Busch Gardens — is planning for the future. Phoenix Rising is the park’s latest coaster, set to open by the end of the year. The park also saw the birth of a critically endangered Bornean orangutan.

On Saturday, June 1, the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season began. Predicted “above normal” by NOAA, we wrote a quick guide to help you prepare.

A photo gallery of Busch Gardens' new baby orangutan, in various poses, from lying on a bed to being fed milk.

After 30,000+ votes, her name was chosen — Stella.

Photo by Busch Gardens

Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers started 2024 with drama — as per usual. Needing to win the final game of the regular season, the Bucs scraped past the Carolina Panthers, securing a fourth straight playoff appearance. Victory vs. the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card Round followed before a heartbreaking loss in the Divisional Round in Detroit ended the Bucs’ season.

Three big contracts followed: Mike Evans signed a two-year deal in March, followed soon after by Baker Mayfield’s three-year deal. Antoine Winfield Jr. put pen to paper on a four-year worth up to $84.1 million deal in May, becoming the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history in the process.

In February, Tampa Bay Sun FC — the Tampa Bay area’s first professional women’s soccer team — began their aforementioned stadium renovations, before unveiling their 2024 schedule + slick jerseys. The Sun play their first competitive game vs Dallas Trinity FC in August.

This ain’t the same old South Florida. Those words rang around Yuengling Center as the USF Bulls men’s basketball team went on a program-record 15-game winning streak, earning a place inside the top 25 for the first time in its history. The Bulls missed out on March Madness. Snubbed, some would say.

The Tampa Bay Lightning made it to the postseason — of course — but were knocked out in April in the Eastern Conference First Round to the Florida Panthers, who went on to win the Stanley Cup. Sunday, June 30 was Steven Stamkos’ last day as a Tampa Bay Lightning player. Stammer signing a four-year deal with the Nashville Predators the next day ended his legendary Bolts career. Remember where it all began?

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