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Lightning in-arena fan experience ranked 4th best in the NHL

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Lightning fans are the top reason why the Tampa Bay Times Forum scored so highly in an overall ranking of all 30 arenas in the NHL conducted by Stadium Journey.com,

Andrew Weber, USA TODAY Sports Images

Stadium Journey.com, "a web venture with the goal to become a world-class community resource for sports fans, built around optimizing the experience of attending live sporting events" has released their latest ranking of NHL arenas in terms of overall "fan experience" and the Tampa Bay Times Forum, home of the Lightning, was ranked fourth.

Areas that were evaluated to calculate the rankings included food and beverage in the arena, overall atmosphere, surrounding neighborhood, ease of access to and from the arena as well as navigating the facility once inside and the behavior of the fans themselves among other things.

The Forum earned highest marks in terms of "Atmosphere", "Fans", "Return on Investment" and "Extras", all earning five out of five stars. Accolades of note went to the amenities and renovations added since Jeff Vinik assumed control of the team, such as the pipe organ, outdoor party deck and Tesla coils, as well as the price of tickets. The article reserved its highest praise for the Lightning fans themselves, saying "Surprisingly, this is the strongest score of the venue" and "Completely contrary to what the national media might say, the fans of the Lightning genuinely surprised me … and deserve more credit than they get."

The area where the Forum experience scored the lowest was "Neighborhood", rating only three stars out of a possible five. In particular, downtown Tampa was called out for "the dearth of entertainment options available to patrons of the Forum after downtown shuts down at 5pm".

Sports Journey.com was launched in 2009 and last ranked the arenas of the NHL in 2011. President and co-founder Paul Swaney says they have approximately 100 writers, including sports writers, bloggers and sports travel experts among others, in 18 different countries around the world.

The three arenas ranking ahead of the Forum are the Xcel Energy Center, the Verizon Center and the MTS Center, homes to the Minnesota Wild, Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets respectively.  The arena that ranked last is the Honda Center, where the Anaheim Ducks play.