If you ask me, there’s really only one reasonable excuse why a Tampa Bay sports fan wouldn’t support the Lightning at this point: they don’t like hockey.
Beyond that obvious possibility, how could you not be enticed by this team? They have three star players in Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier (even if Lecavalier could probably justify his star status with a little more production). The team has a wily veteran in net in Dwayne Roloson and a possible defenseman of the future in Victor Hedman. Oh yeah, they also have Steve Yzerman as their GM, Guy Boucher’s James Bond scar on the bench and an owner who’s focused on giving hockey people what they need to win as opposed to the duo who seemed too distracted by cross-promoting hackneyed horror movies with goalie masks.
With Stamkos signed for the medium-term future and all of their free agent questions answered, the Lightning look like they have the right ingredients for another promising season. The Yzerman era is off to a bright start off the ice, too, judging by St. Pete Times Forum’s $35 million facelift and an intangible sense of excitement around almost every area of the club.
Of course, all of these great developments would be meaningless if the team fails at the box office. That doesn’t seem to be the case, as Damian Cristodero passes along these promising sales figures from Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke.
The Lightning, coming off its first playoff appearance in four years, has sold more than 10,000 full season tickets for next season, CEO Tod Leiweke said, doubling last season’s total of 5,000.
“We’re right at 10,000, maybe 10,005,” Leiweke said. “We feel good about that.”
Leiweke said renewals are running at about 90 percent, which means about 5,500 new subscribers have signed up. When yet-to-be-sold partial season tickets are factored in, Leiweke said he hopes the season-ticket base will be about 12,000.
“Our job is to sell out every game,” he said. “We still have work to do to get to that. But to say we’d be at 10,000 right now, that’s a heck of a target.”
Cristodero reports that sellouts won’t be quite as difficult to reach thanks to some of the changes made by that $35 million facelift. The addition of a pipe organ, a party deck and the elimination of a few sections and suites will remove 718 seats from a building which boasted a hockey capacity of 19,758 before. That being said, Cristodero points out that the forum could hold more than 20,000 people if you factor in standing room, lounges and restaurant audiences as well, which isn’t that hard to imagine if the Lightning put together another big run in the playoffs.
In other words, things are looking great for the Lightning on the business end. Considering the near-instant success the team has enjoyed since Yzerman took over, it only seems fair. We’ll see if this organization can keep the positive momentum going in 2011-12, though.