Way back when the Earth was flat and the Tampa Bay Lightning's name appearing on the Stanley Cup seemed like an impossibility, then-owner Palace Sports and Entertainment (headed by the late William Davidson) sealed a deal with the local media entity, the St. Petersburg Times, to rename the venue then-known as Ice Palace. The St. Pete Times Forum was born, and so was my nickname for the building - Times Palace.
"Forum" alone in the name felt like fingers across a chalk board; it just didn't sit well with me. It didn't feel right. Some people clung to "Ice Palace" as the buildings name - especially the Tampa Tribune (who had continued to use that venue name instead of printing the name of its rival newspaper until this very year.) But naming rights are big money and the Lightning franchise was bleeding money. Having the name of a newspaper that dominated the region seemed like an okay thing from a business perspective. After all, not only did the newspaper dominate with its coverage but the multi-purpose venue in downtown Tampa also dominated as one of the top concert and event locations in the country (if not the world) at the time.
It confused the hell out of some of the local population though. A venue named for the city of St. Petersburg (...or a newspaper that was named for that city) in downtown Tampa? I can safely recall an incident, planning to attend a concert with my mom (as a birthday gift for her) where my aging mother freaked when she saw we were traveling east instead of south.
"The building is St. Pete Times! Why are we heading to Tampa??"
Over the years, I've seen the venue's name maligned at times as the Fishwrap Forum among other things. A four-syllable name just seemed awkward, a four-word name too. I clung to my nickname for the building that I started using shortly after the announced venue name change - Times Palace. It was a hybrid of the old name and the new. It was a show of my affection for the building in general as the home of my team.
The times, they are a changing (pun intended) with the announcement today that the name of the building will be "transitioned" from Tampa Bay Times Forum - a name picked up in recent years after the St. Pete Times renamed itself into the more regional Tampa Bay Times - to Amalie Arena. That's a constructive way of saying that the deal between the Times and the Lightning was ceased for one reason or another.
Amalie Oil is the company behind the new name; it already sponsors the actual turf field used at Tampa Bay Storm arena football games at the Foru-er, Times Pala-er, Arena.
This is... this is awkward. I mean, the name change to a venue is just how sports operate now, isn't it. That's a statement, not a question, because it's been a truth to pro sports in general for a long time now. It goes beyond sports too, of course, and proof of that has been the name of the amphitheater concert venue out by the Florida State Fairgrounds. First known as Ford Amphitheater, it later became 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheater. That name was a sign how money mattered more than actual appeal to the venue name. You can see that all around now with different corporate-happy manglings of venue names all across the country and the globe. Very few times does a venue rename for a corporate entity seem subtle enough that you find the name fitting: Citi Field in New York ("City Field? That works!"); HP Pavilion as the former name of the arena out in San Jose; Raymond James Stadium here in the Tampa Bay area (because it's a human name, like how monuments and city owned buildings used to be named for way back when.)
The St. Pete Times Forum? It never worked for me entirely, but I got used to it with thanks to consistency. The adaptation to the more regional name didn't bother me at all.
Amalie Arena? With no offense to Amalie Oil, it's something that will certainly take getting used to not because it's a bold, tacky name but because it is... muted? Perhaps that's a positive long-term, but it's quite a change from what we've been exposed to for the past few years. The fact is also that Amalie Oil is not something we're exposed to on a day-to-day basis, so that also leads to people scratching their heads and possibly rolling their eyes at the move.
The building will still be the palace that we have associated it since it's opening in the late 90's. Owner Jeff Vinik has emphasized, through his investment in the building, just how the building is world class (and like a Palace).
Maybe in time I'll end up calling the building "Amalie Castle" or something? Right now it's just change, change that we as fans have seen a multitude of times outside our local venues. We'll get used to it, we have to. The world moves on, and we move forward.