TAMPA BAY – Tampa Bay Arena, LP and Times Publishing Company announced this morning that the St. Pete Times Forum is being renamed the "Tampa Bay Times Forum," effective January 1, 2012. Additionally, the companies announced that the naming rights contract between the two has been extended through August 31, 2018. The arena is the playing home of the National Hockey League's Tampa Bay Lightning and it will host the Republican National Convention in August, 2012. The sponsorship was extended on terms consistent with the current contract.
"The St. Petersburg Times has evolved into being a regional newspaper," said Tod Leiweke, Chief Executive Officer of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Times Forum. "As its management makes the significant step of changing the name on the masthead to represent that progression, we are pleased to announce the Times has elected to extend the naming rights to the arena."
The arena originally opened as the Ice Palace in October 1996 to serve as the home of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the hub of an economic development zone in downtown Tampa's Channelside District. The building's name was changed in September 2002 to the St. Pete Times Forum when Times Publishing signed a naming rights contract with Palace Sports & Entertainment, then the parent company of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"Our good name is our most important asset," said Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash. "As we take up our new name, we are delighted to raise it above the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Jeff Vinik, Tod Leiweke and their team at the Tampa Bay Lightning have proven themselves to be excellent partners who share our values and our vision for the Tampa Bay region."
The Lightning are currently owned by Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment LLC (TBSE), an entity controlled by Jeffrey Vinik. TBSE owns the arena operating company, Tampa Bay Arena, LP.