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
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
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.
Fan Support 5
Concourses/fan comfort 4.5
Bonus: USRT Assist 3; Outdoor entry plaza 2
January 19, 1999
Buffalo Sabres at
Tampa Bay Lightning
NHL ALL STAR
January 24-25, 1999
January 18, 2002
Tampa Bay Lightning
March 19 and 21,
at Tampa Bay
February 8, 2011
(renamed St. Pete
Arena, summer, 2014)