It turns out plenty of people in Tampa Bay want to play in a ball pit.
It doesn't hurt that it's free to flop around in the stunning exhibit of all-white plastic bubbles at the Beach Tampa in Amalie Arena. But it's also just plain fun, so more than 80,000 people have snapped up free tickets so far, an arena spokeswoman said. It's on track to hit the 100,000 mark by the time the exhibit ends on Thursday.
Attendance has been "off-the-charts amazing," said Angela Lanza, event marketing manager at Amalie Arena. "We have exceeded our expectations."
Because of high demand, most of the online tickets for the weekend slots are gone, but the arena is releasing walk-up tickets every day. So you can still get in if you are flexible about your time, Lanza said.
All tickets are for a particular time slot throughout the day. The box office is releasing tickets at 9 a.m. each day — for that day's sessions only — so you could go early to the box office, pick the time you want and come back later. Otherwise, expect to wait or have to come back later for any available remaining slots.
Part art installation, part science lesson, the idea to bring the exhibit to Tampa was hatched last summer when Penny Vinik, wife of Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, visited the exhibit set up at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. She made it her mission to bring it to Tampa Bay, and got the Vinik Family Foundation to underwrite the cost to bring it here and make it free to the public.
The 15,000-square-foot play area has a white carpeted shoreline and "seawall" suitable for doing a cannonball into the pit. The 1.2 million antimicrobial plastic balls fill in the space around you as you move, making it tough to swim through but buoyant enough to lie back and rest.
There is a concession stand selling beer, sodas, water and lounge chairs. Free ice cream is handed out at the arena entrance.
Free lockers are available and recommended, because dropped items are difficult to recover in the sea of translucent balls. A string backpack is handy to have if you want to bring along your phone and some cash but don't want to risk it falling out of your pocket.
Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @SharonKWn.