Outdoor games are a novelty that the NHL is starting to cling to as a major source of revenue. The success of the Winter Classic (the New Years Day marquee game) has become the major sporting event that rings in the New Year, compared to years in the past when college bowl games dominated the sports landscaped on day one of a new year. Bowl games are overdone and over-exposed now, taking place from late November until mid January. The sports spectacle title for the day has been conceded to the NHL.
The Heritage Classic which preceded the Winter Classic, the NHL's Canada-specific outdoor event - continues to be successful (with this year taking place in British Columbia in a contest between the Canucks and the Flames, slated for early March). The league started to tempt fate with a "Stadium Series" this year, getting major games played outdoors in New York and Los Angeles.
The increase in outdoor events had led to fans in Tampa Bay wondering if an outdoor game could ever take place here. There's even open speculation about it before too, as recently as December from Michael Stuart over at Hockey Buzz, built off innuendo coming from the infamous Eklund (Hockey Buzz's founder). The weather rarely gets outright frigid here, but, hey, if Los Angeles could host an outdoor game, why not Tampa?
That's actually being explored.
An unnamed source with the Tampa Sports Authority, the government body that oversees sports facilities in the city of Tampa, has indicated that the Authority has been asked to examine the logistics necessary to install an ice rink on the playing surface of Raymond James Stadium. It's reasonable to assume that the examination request comes by way of the NHL expressing interest in using the facility for an outdoor game.
There is no other information to be had, such as a possible when an outdoor game could happen at the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and University of South Florida Bulls. The league may simply be adding venues to a file for the heck of it. It's also possible that an examination of logistics will prove there are technical difficulties to attempt such a feat at the 65,000 seat stadium... Though, I find that doubtful as the building has hosted the super bowl and it's demanding halftime events with their huge demands on the building, its infrastructure, and its resources.
Still another thing that you cannot guarantee here (but it's a universal truth with all outdoor games), and that's the weather in the region being suitable for an outdoor game. While Los Angeles hosted an outdoor game successfully this year in its warm and temperate climate, the weather in Los Angeles is different than that in Tampa; the atmosphere is more stable. While cooler temperatures do prevail in the Tampa Bay region in January and February, you can't bank on it being dry, and humidity (along with warmer temperatures) can wreak havoc on the ice surface, making it a mess to use.
I'm not saying you couldn't have an outdoor rink... It's guaranteeing it's a suitable playing surface that is comes into question.
There's one other factor worth mentioning here that hurts Tampa hosting an outdoor game: the Glazer family who own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the terms of their lease agreement at Raymond James Stadium. Through that lease, they are due first profits at all events hosted at the stadium. Those terms and how they would bite into revenues generated by the NHL may sour the idea of having a game in Tampa.
As a hockey fan, I'm fine if an outdoor game is never hosted in Tampa; I'd prefer seeing only two outdoor games a season: The Winter Classic and the Heritage Classic. Outdoor games are supposed to simulate the nostalgia of pond hockey, something that doesn't fit in Tampa Bay or Florida for that matter. Overdoing outdoor games turns the spectacle into a gimmick of little interest... Sort of like college football bowl games.
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