Amalie Arena, home to the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, has been buzzing with activity in the nearly 300 days since the Lightning last won the Stanley Cup in 2020, which was played without normal crowds due to Covid-19 restrictions.
For Amalie Arena, 2021 began with the arena serving as the temporary home of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, continued with Super Bowl parties as the “big game” was held in Tampa in February, and was capped with yet another Stanley Cup championship for the Lightning last week, this time in front of a crowd of 19,000 fans.
Delaware North Sportservice, which provides food and beverages services at Amalie Arena, had to quickly adapt to the various events and needs of the different major league teams while also navigating the ever-changing Covid protocols. From creating new team dining menus for the Raptors and visiting NBA teams to serving increasing crowds of Lightning fans as restrictions were lifted, the Sportservice team was ready.
“Flexibility and fortitude were key for us and our Sportservice team at Amalie,” said George Raub, Delaware North’s general manager at the arena. “I can’t say enough about how this team adapted to serve our client and visiting teams in the most challenging days of Covid protocols and procedures. And then to take it to the next level when thousands of fans began returning to the arena for games was truly championship-caliber.”
Lightning fans, who were unable to watch the team’s run to a championship in 2020 in person, were treated to an array of new food and beverage options from the Delaware North team for the 2021 playoff run. The culinary and operations teams collaborated to create round-by-round limited-edition food and signature cocktails, including “The Big Rig” sandwich, named as an homage to Lightning left winger Pat Maroon.
Executive Chef Waylon Nelson joined the spicy chicken wars with the “Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Chicken Sandwich,” a golden fried chicken breast crusted in Flamin’ Hot Cheetos with lettuce, tomato, pickles, more Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and finished with a spicy mayo.
The beverage team introduced the “Sandboni,” a fully self-contained, beach-going, remote controlled miniature Zamboni bar that served fans adult sno-cones at the outdoor watch parties.
The party didn’t stop at the arena walls as fans were welcomed onto Ford Thunder Alley to watch the games on three outdoor screens. Anchored by the Cigar City Brewing Taproom, a new Delaware North sports pub concept now in its first full season of operations, more than 3,000 people per night brought the playoff energy outside under the Florida sun. The Taproom hosted all-inclusive Playoff Parties, with included food and beverage, live radio broadcasts, Lightning alumni appearances and fan giveaways.
Delaware North’s premium service departments brought the full team spirit, partnering closely with the Lighting’s Platinum Services and Group Sales teams to activate new experiences in locations throughout the arena, including the elevated ‘Between the Pipes’ area, a group hospitality area for 75 people with direct ice views and private seating, and the ‘Champions Club at Firestick Grill,’ a pregame reception available as an add-on to any game ticket. The Suites team made sure everyone felt at home in the arena, including the visiting teams, with custom ice carvings and team-centric desserts made at the arena’s in-house bakeshop. “The city has been electric with energy and support for the teams during their championship runs, and it’s been quite a ride for our team to be a part of,” Raub continued. “We’re only 100 days away from the puck dropping on another NHL season, and another banner raising for the Lightning.”
PHOTO CAPTION (above): Delaware North Sportservice leaders take in the scene outside of Amalie Arena last week. Pictured from left to right: Chris Fields, assistant general manager for Delaware North at Amalie Arena; Jamie Obletz, president of Sportservice; George Raub, general manager for Delaware North at Amalie Arena; Rick Abramson, retired Delaware North executive and strategic advisor; and Bob Thormeier, vice president of operations for Sportservice.
PHOTO CAPTION (below): Sno-cone cocktails were served during outdoor watch parties on the ‘Sandboni,’ a remote controlled miniature Zamboni that delivered drinks to fans.