Fan are always excited when a professional sports team gears up for another season. There’s excitement, optimism, and a desire to be part of the action. Fans can’t wait for the games to start.
I’m not talking about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this time. Don’t get me wrong. This is definitely a football town, and fans have been waiting months to see the Bucs back in action. But their season started last weekend.
No, I’m talking about the Tampa Bay Lightning. We’re a football town, but we’re a hockey town, too.
(Technically, Detroit is known as “Hockeytown” due to its Red Wings and the team’s storied and successful history in the National Hockey League. But let’s be honest: Our city is nicer, it has better weather, and we have the better team right now. So we’re also a hockey town).
Anyway, the Lightning’s season starts in less than a month, with preseason just a few days away. To celebrate, the team is holding its annual Fan Fest on Sept. 20 for ticket-holders, well-wishers and anyone who supports the Bolts. And it’s free, which is why you’re seeing it here in On the Cheap.
You might wonder why the hockey season is starting when it feels like they just stopped playing. That’s because the Lightning kept winning through the playoffs. Instead of heading home when the regular season ended in April, they played all the way until the middle of June, when they lost in the Stanley Cup Finals. Fans were proud of how they played, but they’re also hungry to see another stellar season. So you can expect a good turnout at Fan Fest.
The Lightning hasn’t released all the details for the event yet, but we know what to expect based on previous events.
It will be held at the team’s home at Amalie Arena, 401 Channelside Drive in Tampa beginning at 11 a.m.
Thousands of fans attended last year’s Fan Fest, and it should be the same again this year, if not bigger.
We do know that there will be three player scrimmages and two autograph/photo sessions. Fans can also take photos with the Prince of Wales trophy, which is given to the Eastern Conference champions each year. There’s always a Kids’ Zone, with games, face painting, balloon animals and other activities. Throw in a used equipment sale and executive and player interviews, and you have everything a fan could want except an actual game. It’s a great chance to interact with other fans, get an early look at the team in action and prepare for what should be another successful season.
As with most professional sports teams, seeing the Lightning during the season isn’t cheap. Tickets, parking and concessions all add up fast, and that’s if you can even get a ticket in the first place.
But Fan Fest is free, parking is discounted (it was $5 last year), and concessions are cheaper, as well. There will be food trucks parked outside, too.
If you support the Lightning, it’s a fun way to kick off the new season. And since Fan Fest is free and open to the public, you can show your support whether you’re a season ticket holder or have never been to a game.
There is one thing though: You have to have a ticket to get in.
To get your ticket, go to Lightning.NHL.com and click on “Lightning Launch Weekend.” You can get tickets for Fan Fest and also find out about the Lightning Live event. That’s on Friday, Sept. 18 outside the arena, and will include live music and giveaways.
So enjoy a free weekend of fun, get ready for the regular season and put your wallet on ice. Get it? Ice?
Okay. No more jokes.
Have fun and Go Bolts!
Published September 16, 2015