1. Archive

ICE PALACE // "It will be ready for hockey'

Lightning president Steve Oto insists there is no Plan B or Plan C. He said the hockey team is confident the Ice Palace, the 19,500-seat arena under construction in downtown Tampa, will be ready for the start of next season, in mid-October.

"We're working on Plan A only," Oto said. "We kind of burned the bridge behind us and we really have no place to go. Our only alternative is to have the building ready.

"Common sense says we should have a backup plan. But our general contractor is comfortable. We may not have all the concessions ready. And the landscaping might not be done. But all the basic needs will be there. It definitely will be ready for hockey on opening day."

Craig Martin, project manager for Morse Diesel International, the arena's construction managers, said, "It will take a Herculean effort. It will be very tight, but we still believe we can meet the Oct. 3 (construction deadline) date."

Oto said the cost of the arena could rise from $153-million to $160-million to further accelerate the construction and pay for upgrades, including a better sound system that went on the market after construction began last year.

Martin said the structure of the building is complete. In the next 30 to 60 days, the building will be "sealed." At that point, rain and wind no longer will be a factor and most of the inside finishing work can begin.

The team is planning to play the first week or two on the road, allowing time for the building to be made functional and for any problems to be worked out by an opening date of about Oct. 20. "We want to check everything first," Oto said. "We want to make sure all the toilets flush."