TAMPA, FL - Ticket-buying fans in Tampa Bay like what the Lightning are doing. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
"We’re right at 10,000, maybe 10,005. We feel good about that...Our job is to sell out every game. We still have work to do to get to that. But to say we’d be at 10,000 right now, that’s a heck of a target." -- Tod Leiweke, CEO
Obviously, the Lightning are thrilled with that. To have that money in the bank means seats sold in August are seats they don't have to worry about selling in January and February. But beyond that, it's validation for the things the organization has done and continues to do. It's a vote of confidence from fans (consumers) in the form of dollars.At the same time Leiweke was sharing the good news about the Lightning's sales figures, just across town Tampa Bay Buccaneers co-chairman Brian Glazer was expressing doubt about the Bucs abilty to sell out all of their home games this season.
It's impossible to draw a direct comparison between the two franchises. But considering all the factors that are relevant (an ongoing lousy economy, the Buccaneers dominance of local sports media, the NFL's dominance of global sports media, the region's seemingly insatiable appetite for the sport of football in general, etc.), for the Lightning to have already sold roughly half of their seats to season ticket holders in this prototypical "non-traditional" hockey market while the Buccaneers are looking at the prospect of having games blacked out again this season is significant.
Is this the result of longtime fans finding their way back to the Lightning or brand new ones who got swept up in the excitement generated by the team's surprising extended playoff run?
"I think it was a combination of both, because the positive momentum we were building as an organization started before we even got into the playoffs. With how well the team was playing plus all the initiatives Mr. Vinik was rolling out, from the plan for building renovations to the new jerseys with the microchips in the sleeves for the fans to the community involvement, fans were already getting on board with us. Of course, the playoff run let us build on that." -- Brad Lott, Executive Vice President of Service and Operations
Clearly, Lightning fans approve.