Tampa Bay Lightning Playoffs history: Why do they call it the St. Pete Times Forum?

1:14 PM, May 11, 2011   |    comments
St. Pete Times Forum
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Tampa Bay's hockey history has been a wandering one -- with Lightning games in buildings built for hogs and home runs before finding a permanent home.

Why do they call it the St. Pete Times Forum?

Elation from thousands of fans, players piling on top of each other, and a radio call hollering, "The Lightning have won the Stanley Cup!" are all still fresh in the minds of Tampa Bay Lightning fans.

But this team's Stanley Cup-carrying future started out crammed into an arena built for livestock.

The Bolts got by for one season inside the NHL's smallest venue, Expo Hall at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

Then they moved to the other side of Tampa Bay. The new place they called home wasn't constructed for cows -- it had been built for baseball.

But the Florida Suncoast Dome hadn't landed a major league ball club, so St. Petersburg gladly gave it the new, stormier name ThunderDome and brought the Lightning inside for three seasons.

Inside this St. Petersburg stadium that would eventually become Tropicana Field, a playoff crowd of 28,000-plus set an NHL record.

In 1996, the Bolts set down their skates in a permanent home: the Ice Palace. It kept its grand, royally-inspired name until 2002. Then, a sponsorship deal christened this new icon of Tampa the St. Pete Times Forum.

"As a native Tampan, it's a little tough to say the St. Pete Times Forum in the middle of Downtown Tampa," said Rodney Kite-Powell, curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center.

The history center is nestled right next door to the Forum in Tampa's Channelside district.

The St. Petersburg Times newspaper spends $2 to $3 million a year to slap its name on the skyline less than a mile from the rival Tampa Tribune newsroom.

Kite-Powell says the move could win its own championship in the world of unique, aggressive marketing.

"I don't know if the Tampa Tribune didn't know it was going on, didn't have a chance to offer, didn't have the money at the time -- but it's a little bit of a burn to Tampa to have that," he said. "But it's kind of funny."

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

We'll be featuring new "Why do they call it that?" stories each Wednesday on 10 News at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Check out previous editions of "Why do they call it that?" plus links to photos and maps from Tampa Bay's past at our "Why do they call it that?" website: wtsp.com/callitthat.

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