In the third of a series of announcements focused on a complete brand and business transformation, the Tampa Bay Lightning unveiled a privately-funded $35 million capital expenditures plan to renovate and modernize the St. Pete Times Forum over the next 12 months. The project, which will complete an arena transformation project begun shortly after Chairman and Governor Jeff Vinik purchased the Lightning in March 2010, is aimed at improving the facility for fans, players, sponsorship partners and employees.
Originally opened in downtown Tampa’s Channelside District in the fall of 1996 as the Ice Palace, the St. Pete Times Forum is owned by Hillsborough County, but managed and operated by Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment, LLC, which is controlled by Vinik. In addition to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the 21,500-seat Times Forum is home to arena football’s Tampa Bay Storm, and it is recognized as one of the nation’s most attended venues for concerts and major events each year.
“We are thrilled to unveil our transformation plans today,” said Lightning and St. Pete Times Forum CEO Tod Leiweke. “Jeff made it clear when he purchased the team that the arena needed to see significant upgrades to benefit all of its stakeholders, and I am pleased that we can make his vision come true over the next 12 months. We intend on developing and maintaining a first class arena, whose concourses reflect the great place that is Tampa Bay and whose arena bowl pays homage to the Lightning and the great game of hockey.”
The franchise has appointed acclaimed venues architect Ray Chandler to manage the transformation project, hiring the man whose ideas turned into reality at Denver’s Coors Field, St. Paul’s Excel Energy Center, and several other high-profile stadium and arena projects. Chandler has hired a team that includes architects Tom Proebstle and Mike Kress of Generator Studio, LLC and the strategic design firm of Kiku Obata & Company. Minnesota-based Mortenson Construction will serve as the construction manager, working with a number of local subcontractors and laborers on the project.
Highlights of the transformation include a new grand entry on the west side of the Times Forum, offering a redesigned ticket office and merchandise shop while offering fans a better connection to the main concourse; new seats for every fan; an 11,000 square foot signature outdoor deck extending from the west side of the arena’s Terrace Level overlooking downtown Tampa; the removal of eight suites on the Plaza level, opening up the arena bowl to the main concourse; the enhancement of each of the arena’s remaining suites; the removal of several suites on the Plaza Level, opening up the arena floor to the concourse; a new Chairman’s Club; an enhanced Lightning team locker room; new concourse flooring and concession stands; and substantial improvements to a dilapidated HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) system, allowing the arena to be warmer for the fans and the ice surface better for the players.
Two Terrace level seating sections (323 and 324, totaling approximately 550 seats) will be removed, creating space for a performance stage with a pipe organ and allowing the Lightning the opportunity to add several distinct elements to a greatly improved game presentation aimed at respecting the game of hockey and honoring the Tampa Bay community.
Renderings for the entire project are being made available for fans to view at tampabaylightning.com and visuals will be displayed throughout the St. Pete Times Forum during the 2010-11 hockey season.