St. Pete Times Forum Undergoing $35M-Plus Transformation During Offseason
A $35M-plus facelift underway at the 15-year-old St. Pete Times Forum is "promised not only to fix the wear and tear of time but create the best fan experience possible," according to Eduardo Encina of the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES. Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke said, "We knew we were coming up short, so we said, 'Hey, we need to get this done now.' Something that would have maybe taken years, we're trying to get done in a calendar year." The project, which is being financed by team Owner Jeff Vinik, is "slated to be mostly complete by the Lightning's home opener on Oct. 17." Some parts, "mainly the renovation to the west entrance will be completed in time for the arena to host the Republican National Convention in August 2012." The overhaul will give the Forum a "completely different look, with new sight lines and seats, and features that the Lightning's front office hopes will become signature facets of the arena." Every suite is "being rebuilt, with 60 square feet added to each." Eight suites "were removed -- two in each corner of the lower level bowl -- where standing tables and drink rails will give fans a direct view of the action from the concourse." Leiweke said that he and Vinik are "proud of the suite upgrades but just as excited about the work being done on the upper concourse." Plastic seats "will be replaced with plush cushioned seats, each with a drink holder." An 11,000-foot outdoor deck and party area "is being built on the roof of the arena's west side." Fifty-four flatbeds worth of concrete "were removed from two upper-deck end zone seating sections." There were 574 seats that "gave way to a pipe organ, which will have a bar on either side, a fixture Leiweke hopes becomes a staple of the arena, similar to the pirate ship in the Raymond James Stadium end zone." Another "signature addition will be Tesla coils on either side of the scoreboard that will shoot lightning 25 feet" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 7/28).