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You can buy the balls from Amalie's Beach Tampa exhibit at auction

 
Carina Cleary, 5 looks for her brother Christian Cleary after jumping into the massive ball pit. The free Beach Tampa exhibit  that opened for three weeks in August 2016 in Amalie Arena drew some 100,000 visitors to play in 1.2 million anti-microbial balls.  LUIS SANTANA  |   Times (2016)
Carina Cleary, 5 looks for her brother Christian Cleary after jumping into the massive ball pit. The free Beach Tampa exhibit that opened for three weeks in August 2016 in Amalie Arena drew some 100,000 visitors to play in 1.2 million anti-microbial balls. LUIS SANTANA | Times (2016)
Published Jan. 18, 2018

More than 100,000 people showed up at Amalie Arena in 2016 to frolic in a huge ball pit. It was a sea of 1.2 million white orbs so vast that grown men could belly flop and remain afloat.

Almost two years after the Beach Tampa packed up, some 15,000 leftover white balls are going up for sale at an auction in Pinellas Park this weekend.

These balls were never used in the traveling art exhibit, created by New York design firm Snarkitecture and paid for by the Vinik Family Foundation. They got left behind when 10 semitrailer trucks of balls left Amalie, said Sam Carr, the arena's operations analyst.

Nobody wanted them.

Amalie officials tried to give them away to schools or community centers, but those places said no thanks — children prefer multicolored balls. Shipping them to Australia, the exhibit's next destination, was cost prohibitive. You can't recycle them. They didn't want to just throw them out.

So Saturday morning, Bay Area Auction Services will sell off 30 boxes containing 500 balls each. There is no minimum bid.

Also on the block that day is a large cache of firearms and shooting supplies, cars and boats and a large quantity of TV and movie memorabilia. Auction house owner Greg Farner said the memorabilia comes from a couple who owned many gift shops and have items from Star Trek, I Love Lucy, Marvel, Looney Tunes, Disney and Coca-Cola.

PREVIOUS STORY: Penny Vinik dreams up an Amalie Arena full of 'Beach' balls

In his 25 years at the auction house, Farner has sold off the remains of the St. Petersburg Pier, Showboat Dinner Theatre and the brass diving suit from the old Santa Madeira restaurant.

The balls could end up being a bargain, since a bag of 250 balls goes for about $18 at Walmart. That's only enough to fill a large laundry basket.

The number of balls needed to make a home ball pit is often higher than most do-it-yourselfers realize. Each case of 500 balls fills approximately 7 cubic feet. GermBlock, the company that makes the antimicrobial balls used in the Beach, says a ball pit that's 4 square feet would take seven cases of 500 balls to make a pit 2 feet deep. That's 3,500 balls, or seven cases at auction.

And as anyone who has set up a mini ball pit in a kiddie pool for a toddler finds out, those balls never completely disappear, discovered years later under couches or behind bookshelves.

"They found them in all kinds of crevices around the arena," during the Beach run, Carr said. "Our seats are hollow underneath, so there's probably some still under there."

After the Beach's three-week run, the Amalie staff had 24 hours to clear the center of the arena before 20,000 screaming fans arrived to see Canadian rapper Drake.

Scooping up more than 1 million balls was a "totally arduous" task, Carr said, for an overnight crew of 50 to 75 people — more than twice the number of people it takes to convert the Lightning's ice hockey rink into a concert stage.

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"I've been here eight years," he said. "And that was probably the craziest thing I've had happen here."

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at swynne@tampabay.com. Follow @SharonKWn.