It was 1995 and the Tampa Bay Lightning were in need of a new arena. At the time, the NHL team was only three years old and were determined to set themselves apart from other teams in the Center Division of the NHL and the league as a whole. Over the next 16 months a new arena, originally called the Ice Palace, would be constructed in the Channelside District of downtown Tampa.
Amalie Arena was originally called the Ice Palace. Since 1996 it has been through a few different name changes. It was called the Ice Palace from 1996 - 2002, the St. Pete Times Forum from 2002 - 2012 and was The Tampa Bay Times Forum from 2012-2014. In August of 2014, Amalie Oil entered an agreement with the stadium and was awarded naming rights.
Little is written about the initial construction of the project. An article from the Sun Sentinel from November 15, 1996 states that the main construction team, led by Huber Hunt & Nichols “had to create a "hockey ready" arena in just 16 months and finish the behind-the-scenes areas later.” David Lefevre - Governor of the Lightnings at the time - is quoted saying “They had an impossible task and they did everything we asked of them and then some. They were incredible.”
The architect for the arena was Ellerbe Becket. The company was based in Minneapolis and offered a variety of services including engineering, interior design, construction and architectural work. The firm was acquired by AECOM in 2009.
One of the most noteworthy construction tactics in the original construction of the Ice Palace was to mimic modular construction. The roof trusses were not assembled piece by piece into the top of the building. Instead, construction crews built them on the ground and then hoisted them up to the roof using cranes. This method of construction is believed to be one of the main reasons that Huber Hunt & Nichols were able to complete the project in such a short timeline.
Some of the “behind the scenes” fixes that continued after the official opening of the Ice Palace included a few freight elevators, adding signage on stairways, removing debris sitting where landscaping was still to be done and finishing remaining kitchen fixtures in booths, boxes and club seats. These finishing touches weren’t complete until 1997.
The arena was purchased and paid for by both the City of Tampa and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The City paid $84 million towards construction while the hockey team contributed $53 million.
Today, Hillsborough County and the Tampa Sports Authority jointly own the arena.
On October 12, 1996 the very first event took place at the old Ice Palace. It was the Royal Hanneford Circus. The very first Tampa Bay Lightning game was played on October 20, 1996 against the New York Rangers. The Lightning won against the Rangers 5 - 2.
NHL Arenas have specifications they need to meet. All NHL ice rinks are 200 feet X 85 feet. They have a corner radius of 28 feet and the goal line sits exactly 11 feet from the end board. Blue lines are 75 feet from the end boards and sit 50 feet apart.
NHL ice is about ¾ inch thick. The ice is frozen to about 16-degrees Fahrenheit. Thicker ice is softer and slower. “Slow ice” and “fast ice” are terms used often to describe rinks in hockey. Everything from skating to stopping to passing the puck and scoring can be impacted by the quality of the ice. Climate, humidity, and heat can impact the quality of the ice. That is why arenas such as Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay need to be aware of their humidity and temperature control needs.
With a late-season playoff game in 2021, Tampa weather was posing a challenge for the quality and maintenance of the ice. Trane, a leader in air conditioning services, systems and solutions, was tapped in to provide a solution to keep the ice at a steady temperature.
Trane installed extra humidifiers and a 200 ton air chiller to help mitigate the rising temperature of the Tampa summer air. It worked perfectly and the 2021 Stanley Cup Finals went off without a hitch.
Amalie Arena is a part of a large community of hockey players and fans. Did you know that:
The 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs have helped to put this arena in the limelight once again. With specific needs of humidity control and ice requirements, construction of an NHL arena is not to be taken lightly. Something as simple as a hockey team needing a home has resulted in another iconic building that will bring memories and joy to fans all over Florida and the world.
On Wednesday July 7, 2021, the Tampa Bay Lightning took home the Stanley Cup after a series against the Montreal Canadiens.
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