Travelers leaving Tampa International Airport garages might get more than a parking bill on their way out.
The airport and the Tampa Bay Lightning announced a marketing partnership Monday that gives people using TIA's parking facilities a chance to win four tickets to a Lightning game of their choice at the St. Pete Times Forum.
One winner will be picked at random each day at the exits to the parking garages through the end of the Lightning's season. An average of 8,000 vehicles exit the short-term, long-term and remote economy garages daily.
As part of the marketing agreement, TIA decorated two shuttles connecting the main terminal and Airside A with a photo wrap of Lightning players and the message "Be the Thunder." Recorded shuttle messages from Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier welcome arriving travelers and thank those departing for their visit.
No money will be exchanged in the deal.
Airport and Lightning officials got to know each other when team owner Jeff Vinik hosted executives of Edelweiss Air at a game. Edelweiss will start twice-weekly nonstop flights to Zurich, Switzerland, from Tampa in May.
The Lightning ranks among the top three NHL teams for attracting out-of-town hockey fans, said chief executive officer Tod Leiweke. "We embrace tourism as a driver in the economy," he said.
Airport chief executive officer Joe Lopano said he admires how the hockey team's executives "made real change bringing fun back to the experience. I want to learn."
Paul Vlna of Wesley Chapel got a taste of TIA's new marketing fun. He became the first ticket winner as he stopped at the exit from short-term parking Monday.
"At first, I thought it was some kind of scam going on," said Vlna, 35. ''I don't get this lucky, except maybe $1 on a Lotto ticket."
Steve Huettel can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3384.