TAMPA — The Lightning will increase the seating capacity of Amalie Arena to 37 percent — approximately 7,000 fans — for the team’s upcoming first-round playoff series.
The decision to increase capacity for the playoffs was made in consultation with local health and government officials, as well as the NHL. Last month, the team also sent out questionnaires to season ticket holders asking about their thoughts on increasing the arena’s capacity and whether they would be interested in purchasing playoff tickets.
The Lightning recently increased capacity to 4,200 fans, a 400-person increase from the 3,800-fan capacity it opened to in March.
Since before the season, the team has worked with its health partners — USF Health, Tampa General Hospital and Advent Health — to monitor coronavirus trends in moving toward reopening Amalie Arena to fans safely. Detailed plans on expanding capacity, down to the arena configuration and its HVAC airflow, are given to local health officials, Hillsborough County and the league for approval.
“There’s multiple data points that we take into account here,” Lightning CEO Steve Griggs said. “It’s really our health officials and our government officials that we really look to for the guidance in order to see where we can go with more fans in the building.”
With coronavirus cases spiking locally after the holidays, the Lightning shuttered Amalie Arena to fans to open the season — only three home arenas in the NHL opened the season in January with fans — but then had a soft opening for 500 family and friends in late February. They opened the arena to 3,800 fans on March 13.
Seating pods will be separated by 4-5½ feet in the new seating arrangement, depending on the location. Pods were previously at least 6 feet apart.
All existing Amalie Arena health and safety protocols will remain in place, including mandatory mask-wearing at all times inside the arena except when actively eating or drinking. All fans that purchase tickets agree to the policies ahead of time.
Tickets for Lightning first-round home playoff games will go on sale starting Wednesday morning in a presale for premium season ticket plan holders in the Chase Club and VIP Lounge. All other season ticket holders have access to available seating on Friday morning. They will receive an email with their priority purchase time in advance of tickets going on sale.
All remaining inventory will then be offered to season ticket holders who paused their plans this season and priority access club members. After that, remaining tickets will then be made available to the Lightning Insider email club.
In an effort to ensure as many season ticket holders get to attend at least one first-round game, the number of games and seats purchased per plan account will be capped, depending on the plan.
Ticket availability for potential future playoff rounds is to be determined.
The Lightning currently sit in third place in the Central Division, but with four games remaining could still earn home-ice advantage in the first and second rounds. The NHL has yet to announce this year’s playoff schedule, but the Florida Panthers are the Lightning’s most likely first-round opponent.
• • •
Sign up for Lightning Strikes, a weekly newsletter from Bolts beat writer Eduardo A. Encina that brings you closer to the ice.