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Limited seating at Lightning games leaves some season plan holders empty-handed

Amalie Arena will be at 23-percent capacity for home games. The demand for season tickets has already surpassed the supply.
A view of the concourse as fans gathered to watch the Lightning play the Dallas Stars in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final on the giant video board inside Amalie Arena.
A view of the concourse as fans gathered to watch the Lightning play the Dallas Stars in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final on the giant video board inside Amalie Arena. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jan. 6
Updated Jan. 6

Attendance at Lightning home games this season will be limited to about 3,900-4,000 fans per game — roughly 23 percent of the seating capacity at Amalie Arena — which has made for a complicated ticket-purchasing experience for season plan holders.

On Monday, the Lightning began selling season ticket plans of seven and 14 games to existing season ticket holders in an effort to give more plan holders the opportunity to get tickets. Purchasing priority was given first to full- and half-season plan holders based on tenure, and the allotment was sold out by midday Tuesday.

Because of the limited supply, only about 45-50 percent of season plan holders will be able to purchase some type of seating, Lightning chief marketing and revenue officer Jarrod Dillon estimated. The season-ticket inventory ran out when the team reached its 10-game plan holders.

“We recognize the frustration,” Dillon said. “We’re frustrated. I wish we could have more people back with us. We’re working within the protocols and the confines that we have.”

The Lightning are one of the few teams in the NHL that will allow fans to attend games this season, and the decisions on how Amalie Arena will reopen to fans were made after several months of work.

Health and safety protocols — including fewer people in the building, socially distanced seats, mask-wearing and reminders to stay 6 feet apart — were set with guidance from the league along with local government and health authorities. The arena’s reopening was accelerated last month when the NBA’s Toronto Raptors came to town to play home games at Amalie Arena.

The Lightning sent surveys to fans asking how quickly they saw themselves returning to games during the pandemic.

“We knew demand would really outpace supply,” Dillon said. “We thought demand was going to be high. It has been even higher than I thought it was going to be.”

The Lightning made approximately 3,400-3,500 seats per game available to season ticket holders, mostly through the four seven-game plans and two 14-game plans. They could only purchase up to the number of seats their previous plan held.

An additional 300-500 single-game seats will be made available starting Thursday to season-ticket holders, beginning with the 10-game plan holders who weren’t able to purchase season plans.

Also, a maximum of 500 (per game) single-game tickets will be made available Friday morning to Lightning Insider email subscribers on a presale basis. Any remaining tickets will go on sale to the general public on Saturday.

Seating will be similar to Raptors games, where seats are sectioned off in socially distant pods of two and four seats. The NBA and NHL have slightly different protocols in terms of what kind of clearance is needed to sit where, but a majority of seats will be in the 300 level. As a result, many season ticket holders used to sitting in the 100 level will have to get used to sitting higher.

Season ticket holders also had the option to opt out of purchasing tickets for this season and still be able to retain their plan and original seating assignments for 2021-22.

Season ticket holders who were not able to or decided against getting seats for this season will receive an additional 5-percent credit to the existing balance they paid for their plans.

“From day one, we tried to create the most fair and equitable process possible with the emphasis on getting as many season ticket members in the building who feel comfortable coming,” Dillon said. “And then creating secondary and tertiary levels to still allow people to come back on a single-game basis or whatever it may be. And then, if you just didn’t feel comfortable with coming back at all, having really good processes in place to protect your account to get you back next year.”

Dillon also suggested that fans speak with their season ticket representative for help.

“We will do whatever we can, and it’s not a promise that we’ll be able to fix every issue or make somebody 100-percent satisfied,” he said. “But we’ll do our best to listen and try to see how we can help out in a given situation.

“I think what we’ve all learned through this pandemic together is patience and having to work together to be flexible and adaptable more than anything as a society, and that’s where we are right here right now. I think this beats the alternative of not having anyone in the building and being like the other 27 or 28 markets in hockey that are dealing with that.”

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.

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