- Chris Green
Amalie Arena – Tampa Bay Lightning
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.57
Amalie Arena 401 Channelside Dr Tampa, FL 33602
Year Opened: 1996
Title Town in Tampa
The idea of ice hockey in Florida has always been one that drew looks of confusion among skeptics. How could an NHL franchise succeed in Florida, a state that rarely sees freezing during its coldest months, let alone become more than just a short-term fad? While some have argued the Panthers fit the latter, the Tampa Bay Lightning have become one of the league’s must-see franchises. Consistently competing for playoff spots and winning a Stanley Cup three times (including back-to-back in 2020 and 2021) has catapulted the Tampa Bay franchise to greatness. Without a doubt, the Lightning are one of the best experiences in sports, and a visit to Amalie Arena makes it easy to see why.
Food & Beverage 5
There are tons of food & beverage options at Amalie Arena. From locally-inspired seafood options throughout the concourse to the standard stadium fare, you can find whatever you want here. From full-sized salads or chicken tender baskets at $15.50 to chicken sandwiches at $13.50, the PDQ franchise booths located in the arena are a hit among fans. Sweet tooth seekers can be satisfied with massive options, including souvenir popcorn buckets at $13, Dippin’ Dots for $9.50, caramel corn for $7.50, ice cream for $7, and more. Sodas start at $6.75 with beer ranging from $9.25 to $16, and while prices may be high for some of these items, the quality and quantity cannot be ignored.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have made game day a full experience. From the pre-game festivities and fan zone outside the arena’s main entrance, in an area dubbed Thunder Alley, you can easily see why fans flock to the arena for outdoor watch parties during the playoffs. Here you can find giveaways and music performances throughout the hours before the puck is dropped. Once inside, the pristine arena is easy to navigate thanks to a bounty of signage, as well as the helpfulness of the staff at the arena, some of whom are there solely to answer your questions and help direct you around the facility.
During player intros laser lights, smoke, and even lightning bolts from ceiling-mounted Tesla coils fill the arena with excitement, and once the puck drops the fans take over, making Amalie Arena one of the most intimidating road venues in the league. Simply put, this place gets loud! Finally, the arena was recently renovated with brand new lighting that offers a clearer look at the game action than ever before.
Amalie Arena is located literally blocks from Tampa’s downtown center, situated in the Channelside neighborhood. Nearby you can find countless restaurants and hotels, as well as shopping. However, in recent years, the area across the street from the arena has exploded with construction and a new feel. New high-rise apartments fill the skyline here, complete with restaurants and shopping on the lower levels. Even the local Publix Greenwise Market a block away sets up a table outside, advertising pizza and other food specials for fans arriving on game day. You’re also only a few miles from the Tampa airport and the nearby Tampa International Mall. There, your options for shopping and dining multiply exponentially.
Once you get to Tampa there are countless tourist destinations within a short drive of the downtown area; Hard Rock Casino and Resort is just a few exits east on I-4, while Busch Gardens Tampa is also nearby. The pristine beaches of Clearwater and St. Pete lie just to the west on the other side of the bay, and nature lovers can easily venture towards Blue Springs State Park for kayaking and manatee spotting in the winter months.
The fans in Tampa LOVE their Lightning; packed houses are expected night after night, with mostly Tampa Bay fans in attendance. Unlike other expansion teams where visits from popular teams garner massive traveling crowds, the Lightning fill up easily with home fans regardless of the opponent. This means the locals are about as loyal as they come in pro sports, a rarity in Florida. This also means Amalie Arena gets very loud during games; the fans also know their hockey well, and make their displeasure at bad ref calls, or their excitement over goals scored, known with fervor.
Amalie Arena is located off the Selmon Connector, a split off I-4. Located between I-4 and I-275, the downtown area has several exits that get you to the arena and parking areas nearby. There are plenty of garages and parking lots in the venue’s vicinity that make finding somewhere to park without spending a lot of money easy. There are also several public transport lines that take you to the arena, be they by bus or train. However, as with any major city in Florida, traffic can build up quickly and become a drag, so plan accordingly.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets to Tampa Bay Lightning games are relatively on par with the rest of pro sports and the NHL, starting around $20 for the upper levels to over $100 for the lower bowl. That said, the experience you have at Amalie Arena is unlike anything else in Florida, and easily on par with some of the best hockey experiences in the NHL. Fans flock to Tampa Bay Lightning games, and it is easy to see why. Visiting Tampa should include a trip to a Bolts game almost as an automatic add on for visitors.
Amalie Arena features several statues of important players and members of the Lightning’s past outside in the Thunder Alley area. In addition, another neat aspect of the venue is the plentiful discounts around the facility on food and beverages for season ticket holders.
The Tampa Bay Lightning also have a working Tesla coil mounted to the ceiling that shoots out bolts of lightning during pre-game intros, as well as whenever the Bolts score a goal. The upper end zone also features the Bolts’ organ player, adding a quintessential element to NHL games.
A hidden gem of the Lightning experience is the Budweiser Biergarten – located off the main concourse down a small hallway, this outside patio overlooks Thunder Valley and features food and beverage options for fans who want to get some fresh air during their visit. In addition, the stadium features an impressive number of team stores around its concourses, from the upper level to the main store situated downstairs off the main concourse.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have broken all expectations for a Florida hockey franchise, and their game day experience has become one of the best in the league. From the spotless interior of the venue to the bounty of food options, there is plenty to love at Amalie Arena. Your dollar goes far thanks to the excitement on the ice, and there are no bad seats in the house. Thankfully fans also add to the fun, packing in the house all year long to watch the Lightning push for the playoffs year after year.