Located in downtown Tampa, the 19,764 seat St. Pete Times Forum (formerly the Ice Palace) became the home of the Tampa Bay Lightning in October, 1996. Situated on the Garrison Channel between the Florida Aquarium and the Tampa Convention Center, the 600,000 square foot arena is designed for hockey but will house over 150 events annually with seating capacity expanded to 20,500 for basketball and up to 21,500 for center-staged events.
The St. Pete Times Forum features 28 luxury suites just 20 rows from the playing surface and another tier of 43 on a higher level. Each suite includes 12 cushion theater-style seats in front of a sliding glass wall which may be opened or closed to the remainder of the suite which will have catered dining, private bar and restaurant service, private restrooms and personal furnishing features. In addition, suiteholders have access to a suite-holders only parking lot with a private enterance to the St. Pete Times Forum, and first choice at other headlining events in the area.
Additionally, the St. Pete Times Forum features an exclusive 3,000 seat Palace Club that combines first-class service and amenities with season tickets to Lightning games. A most unique aspect of the arena, the Palace Club provides members with their own private club level to enjoy the action, the best seats in the house, membership to the private restaurant/club, in-seat wait service, concierge service, business facilities, reserved parking in the arena garage and much more.
Images Courtesy Paul Munsey
The St. Pete Times Forum was financed by a unique public/private partnership, including the City of Tampa, Hillsborough County, the state of Florida, and Lightning Partners, Ltd. Total cost of the project was estimated at $160 million. Ellerbe Becket designed the facility and Huber, Hunt, and Nichols was the construction contractor.
October 21, 1996 AP - On a night that they opened their $160 million St. Pete Times Forum, the Tampa Bay Lightning gave their fans something to remember. The New York Rangers probably won't forget it, either.
Dino Ciccarelli and Alex Selivanov scored 32 seconds apart early in the second period as the Lightning beat the Rangers 5-2 last night in the inaugural game at the new arena.
A crowd of 20,543 in the 19,764 seat building saw Ciccarelli break a 1-1 tie 23 seconds into the period. The Lightning right wing converted the rebound of a shot from Rudy Poeschek for his fourth goal.
The 1999 NHL All-Star game was played at the St. Pete Times Forum.
St. Pete Times Forum history
* First regular-season game: October 20, 1996 win over the New York Rangers 5-2
* First goal: October 20, 1996 by Bradley at 11:46 of the first period
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING USING SPONSORSHIP DEAL
TO FUND ICE PALACE IMPROVEMENTS
September 30, 1999
Copyright 1999 MediaVentures
A five-year agreement with local Chrysler and Plymouth dealers will provide funding for the Tampa Bay Lightning to renovate the Ice Palace's club and suite levels. Terms of the deal were not announced, but they are estimated at $10 million and include naming rights for the arena's club and suite levels, restaurant and VIP entrances. Signage is included along with space inside the arena to display automobiles. The renovation work will cost up to $5 million.
The team and the venue were recently purchased by Palace Sports and Entertainment. The company is also investigating sale of naming rights to the arena.
THE ULTIMATE SPORTS ROAD TRIP
By: Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell
January 19, 1999
|St. Pete Times Forum Ranking by USRT|
|Fan Support|| 5|
|Concourses/Fan Comfort|| 4.5|
|Bonus: USRT Assist|| 4|
|Bonus: Outdoor Entry Plaza|| 2|
|Total Score|| 53.5|
January 24-25, 1999
January 18, 2002
March 19-21, 2008 - The Ice Palace - believe it or not this is the THIRD home for the Lightning in their short history, as they began play their first season at Expo Hall northeast of Tampa before moving to the Thunderdome (now Tropicana Field) prior to coming here to their permanent home. The Arena Football League Tampa Bay Storm also make the Ice Palace their home.
Getting to the Venue
This arena is located in downtown Tampa right near Hillsborough Bay, and is adjacent to the Tampa Convention Center and the Florida Aquarium. Since opening in 1996, a number of pubs and restaurants, most with outdoor patios, have sprung up in the neighborhood, lending a festive outdoor atmosphere before and after the games. A new hotel recently opened just behind the arena, and the finishing touches are being applied to a beautiful new park along the channel right next to the venue. If you are looking for things to do before or after the game, then the warm night air of Tampa awaits. THE hopping area is just a short drive away in Ybor City, where restaurants and nightlife are abundant. Opening soon will be a light rail tram to take you there from the Ice Palace neighborhood. In fact the tracks have already been laid. Parking is abundant, with ramps and surface lots all nearby and free spots on the street, if you arrive early enough.
Outside the Venue
A large public plaza is located between the arena ramp and the main entrance, making for a pleasant meeting ground - games of skill for the youngsters, a live band performing, and vendors selling their wares. Radio and TV outlets have their booths set up, not to mention the music blaring from the bars just across the street. A pretty cool atmosphere. Adjacent to the main entrance is a ground level sports bar, recently renovated and featuring plenty of cool hockey memorabilia. There is even a cordoned off outside patio area to sit and sip a couple tall ones.
This venue lacks a grand entry pavilion. You walk up the stairs, walk in the doors, and you are in the concourse. That's it. Once inside, you can see how similar this building is to the layout of our own HSBC Arena, with a lower and upper level, a club level and two levels of suites circling the arena bowl.
Four levels of seating here, including a lower, club, suite and upper level. All seats are colored blue, save for the XO seats which are black leather. The Lightning scrapped the old Thunderdome scoreboard in favor of Sony Jumbotrons (very good) and added digital LED boards along the club level balconies in each end zone. They have been augmented with synchronized ad panels which run along the sidelines. Scrolling out of town scoreboards were also added. All very very good!
The club section has undergone a huge renovation, and the result is one of the most unique configurations that we have seen in any of the major arenas. As is the case elsewhere, the club concourse is at the 200 level of the building. Private entrance is off the main plaza outside, and a nicely appointed, carpeted concourse awaits you. Two upscale restaurants are located adjacent to the club concourse. Named Medallions and Icons , they overlook the outside plaza. One offers casual dining and the other a bountiful buffet. Both restaurants offer a spectacular view of the Tampa skyline and the plaza below.
The XO Club - At one end zone of the 200 level and suite level is the XO Club, and this takes the club seat experience to a whole new thing. We are talking about leather- back chairs, a concourse with hardwood floors, beautifully decorated bar areas, complete with mood lighting and back lit aquariums, lacquered table tops, plasma monitors, internet work stations, and best of all, bars and food buffets everywhere. Your XO Club ticket comes with unlimited beverages, including beer and wine, and all the food you can handle, from salad bars to buffet to a carvery to a brick pizza oven to light snacks. The entire club is akin to a country club experience.
Ya gotta try the cuban sandwiches, definitely a Tampa thing! Outback Steakhouse also has a specialty food stand here. The main team store is located on the plaza side of the main concourse. On the club level is another merchandise stand offering unique "club level" souvenirs, polo shirts and the like. Let us warn you that they also charge club level prices!
This franchise has a short and sorry history, so the two banners they hang trumpet their attendance records set at the Thunderdome. And the new addition... a banner proclaiming Lightning Fans as being "#1".
Hat Tricks, Assists, Penalties...
Hat Trick - to the new XO Club, really something everybody ought to try at least once. Tickets here don't come cheap, however, and there is no public sale, so you've got to look elsewhere if you want to get in.
Penalty - To the Lightning management for hanging that lame and idiotic "Lightning Fans #1" banner right between their other two dumb banners. Hey guys, how about actually winning something meaningful ON the ice? Did you folks actually have a "banner raising ceremony" for the #1 banner? Did you play dramatic fanfare music and get all misty eyed??? Puh-leeze!
Hat Trick - to the same Lightning management for otherwise doing a fine job of finishing off what was a shabby and gloomy building with major capital improvements, and doing it the right way. The results really show! But work remains to be done, and if you want OUR laundry list of advice then please call.
Assist - Thanks to Sean Henry, Senior VP of Administration for the Tampa Bay Lightning, for taking the time to give us a tour of the building and an interview.
Assist - This franchise is Sabres South - Rick Dudley GM, John Tortorella (former Muckler shoe shine boy) is head coach, Craig Ramsay Asst Coach, players Holzinger, Sarich, Andreychuk, wasn't Bam-Bam Barnaby just here with that killer smile? Just like being home. All you guys need is a Hasek and the Cup is yours!
Disclosure time here - Andrew owns a condo on Treasure Island, so Tampa Bay is home away from home and we visit here often. We cheer for the Tampa teams, and would really like to see the Lightning have better success down the road.
We were really left cold on our initial visit to what we saw to be a dank and gloomy building with many unfinished public areas, a dark seating bowl, a team with marginal fan support, and a losing tradition. We were pleasantly surprised to see that much has happened since new ownership took over in mid 1999, and optimism for the future abounds along with a venue which has really taken shape with more to come. New arenas in other cities still top this one, but visiting Tampa, sampling the energy of this city and cheering on the Lightning is a cool thing to do. And from what we experienced, we are CHANGING our rating for the first time on the Ultimate Sports Road Trip.
NAMING RIGHTS BEING SHOPPED IN TAMPA
December 4, 2008
Copyright 2008 MediaVentures
Tampa, Fla. - For now, Tampa's downtown arena is officially called the St. Pete Times Forum.
But at least one big Florida advertiser thinks he could change that, and he's settled on a dollar
figure to put his name on the building instead of the Times'. It's a name that's quite familiar to people in Florida.
John Morgan of the high-profile law firm Morgan & Morgan said he was approached recently
by an advertising executive in Tampa about a potential deal to buy the naming rights on the arena.
Forum officials, including the owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, vigorously deny they're
shopping around for a new naming rights partner.
By no means is any deal in progress, Morgan said, but he said "I was asked if I have an interest
in buying the name of the stadium, and I do ... Putting 'Morgan & Morgan Forum' on that building - that appeals to me."
Morgan said he was offered a price of $1.7 million per year, almost a million dollars less than
the St. Petersburg Times now pays for those same rights. That puts the purchase within his reach.
Morgan & Morgan is one of the nation's largest plaintiff's law firms, known for its
ForThePeople.com Web site. The Orlando-based firm normally spends about $20 million in Florida
each year on advertising and marketing, so $1.7 million would represent a significant part of its
"I'd have to take a long, hard swallow, but it's doable," Morgan said.
Morgan's contact in Tampa is not directly working for the Forum, or the Tampa Bay Lightning
owners who manage the building. Instead, it's John McKay of McKay Advertising, an independent
advertising firm in Tampa. Although McKay says he wasn't authorized to go looking for new
advertisers, he has other connections to the team.
Any shift in naming rights would fit with marketing changes already under way around the
building. Forum officials recently extended a deal that lets the cell phone company MetroPCS put
its name on a large banner above the neon St. Petersburg Times logo that faces the Selmon
Tampa city officials also disclosed plans to rename the road in front of the Forum, now called
"St. Pete Times Forum Drive" to its original name, "Old Water Street," as part of construction of
the new Tampa Bay History Center. Originally, the Times paid to have its name on that street as
part of its naming rights deal, but officials with the Times agreed to the street name change.
A number of loose ends remain for any potential deal for the arena name. Whether McKay's and
Morgan's hopes ever go beyond wishful thinking remain to be seen.
The St. Petersburg Times is halfway through a 12-year contract signed in 2002 for the official
naming rights, paying $2.1 million the first year, with payments rising 3 percent annually to $2.9 million in the 12th year of the deal.
If a new deal were to be struck, it would come in a dramatically different economic atmosphere
than when the current deal originated in 2002. Since then, both the advertising and newspaper
markets nationally have declined. Like virtually every newspaper in the nation, the St. Petersburg Times has reduced staff and consolidated its offerings to cope with a slower economy.
Forum officials rejected the possibility of a new deal.
Oren Koules said Morgan was never offered a deal, and McKay doesn't have the authority to do
so. He said McKay told him that Morgan made the suggestion and named the price.
"There's absolutely no way in a million years we would do $1.7 million," said Koules, the
producer of the "Saw" series of horror films.
If the Forum were shopping the naming rights, he said he would give the job to a national
search firm and be asking $4 million or $5 million a year. (Tampa Tribune)
$40 MILLION IN RENOVATIONS PROPOSED FOR TAMPA ARENA
January 27, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
Tampa, Fla. - The Tampa Bay Lightning plans to announce roughly $40 million in renovations
to the St. Pete Times Forum that the team hopes will significantly improve the hockey game and concert-going experience, the St. Petersburg Times reported.
Documents obtained by the Times from Hillsborough County indicate that the team's new owners want to get reimbursed for much of the work with tourist taxes.
Among the changes being discussed: new seating, an overhauled ventilation system, a new interior color scheme and an upper-level concession area.
The newspaper said the plan is expected to underscore a renewed commitment to the area since a new ownership group led by hedge fund manager Jeff Vinik took over early last year.
Three top county officials who have been briefed by TBSE confirmed to the Times some of the broad ideas of what they have been told is in store. The three, Administrator Mike Merrill, Commissioner Ken Hagan and Tim Simon, director of finance for the clerk's office, have been talking with Lightning officials since late last year.
Their shared account of the renovations planned for this summer include:
* Replacing all of the seats within the arena with new blue ones to match the team's new colors. The Times Forum's faulty heating and ventilation system allows moisture to build up, which has caused the seats' metal supports to rust.
* Replacing some or all of the existing heating, air conditioning and ventilation system to address those moisture issues.
* Repainting the walls, resurfacing concourse floors and adding an old-fashioned pipe organ.
* Adding a central food and beverage, party-deck-type area on the upper level in an area that is largely unused. The party area would provide new vending options in the upper, or terrace, level. Team officials hope that will ease congestion on lower concourses that they have long said are too narrow.
Simon told the Times that during a tour of the arena late last year to highlight proposed modifications, he put the team's renovation cost at about $35 million. Team officials told him the figure would probably be slightly higher, he said.
The county-owned Times Forum was built in 1996 for the Lightning. The St. Petersburg Times bought the naming rights in 2002.
In 2006, the county pledged $35 million in tourist-tax money for renovations to the Times Forum. The team has used only about one-quarter of that.
That deal called for the team to pay for renovations and then seek reimbursement. It was eligible for $7 million in repayment the first year, and $2 million annually through 2021 after that.
Under the tentative scenario discussed by the team and the county, the deal could be extended through 2027, with annual repayments increasing to $2.5 million in 2015. That could increase the 2006 pledge of $35 million from the county to up to $48.5 million.
November 3, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
Still another name change will happen in Tampa after the St. Petersburg Times announced it would change its name to the Tampa Bay Times on Jan. 1. Times Publishing in 2002 got naming rights to the forum. That contract has now been extended through August 2018, the two companies also announced. The arena will host the Republican National Convention in August 2012. The sponsorship was extended on terms consistent with the current contract, the newspaper said.
LIGHTNING OWNER MAY DEVELOP LAND NEAR ARENA
April 12, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures
Tampa, Fla. - Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is part of a group that submitted an offer
to purchase the financially troubled Channelside Bay Plaza, the entertainment complex that sits adjacent to the Lightning's home, the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The Tampa Tribune said rumors of Vinik's interest have circulated since late last year, given his wealth and the possibilities that would be available to someone who controlled both the Times Forum and the Channelside retail complex.
Vinik has garnered a reputation for strong civic involvement since buying the Lightning in 2010. He bankrolled about $40 million in recent renovations at the Times Forum and has been a major donor to area charities. He also owns property next to the Times Forum.
"It is exciting," said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. "There's a lot of synergy there. It could only be looked upon as an advantage. It would be nice to have someone who has skin in the game."
Vinik's partners are Andrew Wright, chief executive officer and founder of Franklin Street, one of the fastest-growing commercial real estate firms in Florida; and Anthony Everett, founder and president of Everett Realty Services. He is the son of Tampa real estate icon Toni Everett.
Lightning spokesman Bill Wickett confirmed that Vinik is part of the group. He declined to comment further. Wright said, "We're excited about the opportunity," but he declined to say anything more. The amount of the Vinik group's bid was not revealed.
Developers designed Channelside as an upscale specialty retail center with restaurants and entertainment when it opened beside the Florida Aquarium in early 2001. The 234,520-square-foot center struggled to boost occupancy during the recession. When listed for sale in April 2011, it was 78 percent occupied, according to real estate data.
It's not clear whether anyone else submitted a bid, the newspaper said.
The Tampa Port Authority owns the land under the center and has to approve any offer. Charles Klug, counsel for the port, said bank officials will meet to discuss the bids before offers are sent to the port.
Before picking a buyer, officials will examine the financial, marketing and business plans of all bidders. Klug said the port prefers a local buyer and it will take about a month to make a selection.
If the Tampa Bay Rays leave St. Petersburg, the Channel District has been rumored as a possible location for a new ballpark. Buckhorn agreed.
The center is anchored by a 10-screen cinema. But the biggest crowds show up for special events tied to holidays and sports events at the nearby Times Forum, the newspaper said.
Many street-side properties are vacant. But the center rallies around businesses such as Splitsville, Stumps Supper Club and Hooters. Passengers from the adjacent cruise ship terminal also spend money at Channelside.