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2015 NHL Playoffs: Rangers fans, welcome to Amalie Arena!

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Are you a New York Rangers fan coming to Tampa to see your blueshirts play in the Eastern Conference Finals? Well here's your guide for visiting Tampa!

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Greetings Rangers fans! You may have already started looking into taking a little Florida vacation in the next few days that also just happens to coincide with your favorite blue-shirted team playing a game of hockey in these parts! Let me be your Guide to Florida!

Flying In

Tampa International Airport (airport code TPA) is the closest airport to downtown Tampa and Amalie Arena. St. Pete/Clearwater Airport (airport code PIE) is just across the bridge and a few budget airlines fly there, but the major's are at Tampa International. JetBlue, United and Delta offer direct flights between New York City area and Tampa. US Airways and Delta are two of the larger suppliers of airline seats into Tampa, but many of the legacy carriers as well as Southwest have a strong presence in the Lightning capital of the world.

Hotels

There are three very nice hotels within easy walking distance of Amalie Arena: the Tampa Marriott WatersideEmbassy Suites - Downtown Tampa and Westin Harbour Island. There are multiple other options for accommodations downtown (boutique hotel options such as the historic Floridan Hotel as well as major names in the hotel industry) as well multitudes of other options at a distance from downtown but closer to the beaches and other tourist attractions. Check with your hotel if they have a shuttle to the airport. Otherwise, you'll need a rental car or a cab or Uber to get downtown. You may be used to the subways and buses of New York City, but Tampa does not have as well of a developed public transit system.

Seats

There is rarely a bad seat in Amalie Arena. The sight lines are great and there are few if any obstructed view seats. There are stadium seats everywhere with extra padded seats in the first two rows of the lower level (100s) and all seats in the club level (200s). Standing room only tickets are not a great idea, in my opinion, as the arena was not set up very well to accommodate standing audiences. There’s only limited places you can stand and watch on the first level and on the third level, it’s only around handicap seating. The Rangers bench is in front of sections 101 and 102 (you want high seat numbers in 101 and low seat numbers in 102 to be behind the bench) and they attack twice from sections 117 through 130.

Amalie Arena staff is very relaxed about going down to the glass for warm ups. Just be courteous to other fans. There are a lot of people that have their spots and go down to them every game. Beware, if you want to watch, you'll most likely need to stand as most other people will be standing and taking pictures or chatting.

Yes, you’ve probably heard about this already but I might as well go to it. If you buy a seat in the first two rows (which includes Lexus Lounge access) or in the Chase Club part of the club level, you will not be allowed to wear your Rangers gear. Look, is it fair? No, not really. But it is our house. I’m pretty sure most of you would not want a couple of Lightning fans wandering around areas in Madison Square Garden that are only available to season ticket holders that pay a large amount of money to have access to those special areas. There’s plenty of other great seats in Amalie Arena. Pick one of those spots and enjoy the game.

Sticks of Fire, a Lightning fan supporter group, centers themselves in section 307 in the upper deck. If you’re a soccer fan and love rowdy chanting, then 307 is the place to be, but you might get some heckling from exuberant fans. If you don’t want to experience that, then you should probably stay away from 307.

Food and Drinks

Food and Drink prices inside the arena are pretty reasonable. The beer selection is pretty typical with the major makers represented as well as Molson Blue and LaBlatt throughout the arena. Additionally, you can find other specialty beers at certain food stands. Four Green Fields on the 1st level has Guiness and Harp. There is an Outback on the 1st level that has Fosters. There is a World of Beer also on the first level that has almost a dozen taps of craft beer plus cans including Cigar City Brewery selections. If you’re into craft beer, then you probably know of Cigar City from Hunnapu Day. If you like IPAs, I highly recommend Jai Alai (pronounced High Lie), if not, the Maduro Brown Ale in the can is pretty delicious. On all three levels, you’ll also find liquor bars that serve hard alcohol and wine. As for soda and water, you’ll find Coke products throughout the arena. Sorry Pepsi.

Most of the speciality food places are on the 1st level. You have Four Green Fields (which is a local Irish eatery), Outback, PDQ, Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, BBQ Nachos, Holy Hog BBQ, Little Ceasars Pizza, Rum Fish Grill which has some pretty good seafood selections, and your normal variety of arena food at various vendors. Upstairs you’ll find most normal arena food variety, but you’ll also find two Dip’N’Dots stands and two Carvel ice cream stands. Additionally, you’ll find another Holy Hog BBQ and a Wing House on the Bud Light Party Deck which I’ll talk about later.

The Club level outside of the Chase Club offers mostly normal fare, but has one stand in particular that is exception. They have a stir fry station that is ok in my opinion, but the real draw is a turkey and roast beef sandwich carving station. I took a friend that is a professional chef. He got the roast beef sandwich and said it was some of the best roast beef he’s ever had and well worth the price.

Outside of the arena, there are a handful of places to go nearby. Hattricks is a favorite pre-game eating place for many Lightning fans a few blocks from the arena. Right across the street, you’ll find a newly opened Fergs LIVE. Fergs is well known for it’s Sports Bar located right next to Tropicana Field and is now open next to Amalie Arena as well. Their wings are really good and they usually have good pitcher deals for beer. There’s also live bands and a great atmosphere. Just down the street, you’ll find Channel Side Plaza. There is a Hooters in there and a recently opened Hablo’s Tacos which my taco loving friend has been raving about. You’ll also find a couple other smaller places within the plaza, too.

The Bud Light Party Deck

The Bud Light Party Deck is located on the 3rd level with entrances around sections 303 and 329. It is a large outdoor balcony that has a Winghouse and Holy Hob BBQ stand as well as two stands for beer and liquor on either side. By the way, there is a men's bathroom on one side and women's bathroom on the other side. During intermission, these are often the shortest lines you'll find and a little known secret in the arena. You're welcome Ladies. Things usually get rowdy during intermission and I can't tell you what it's like during the game because I'm always inside. After the game, the drink prices drop and a lot of fans go there to get drunk after the game weather in celebration or in misery.

Smoking

Florida was the first state in the country to pass a Indoor Smoking Ban. There is no smoking anywhere inside Amalie Arena and smoking outside is only in designated places. The Bud Light Party Deck is a no smoking area. When you're away from the game, restaurants are non-smoking and bars can only allow smoking if a minimal percentage of their revenue comes from food sales. Make sure to check before you light up inside.

Outside the game

If you're going to come to Tampa, you might as well get some enjoyment outside of the game. But first, I must stop and quote Sticks of Fire.

Oh, Tampa Bay! Is Wonderful! Oh, Tampa Bay Is Wonderful! We've got the Beach! Beer! And Lightning! Oh, Tampa Bay Is Wonderful!

Oh, New York! Is Full of Snow! Oh, New York Is Full of Snow! They've got Snow! Snow! And More Snow! Oh, New York is Full of Snow!

So, since you're going to be getting out of the Snow, you might as well enjoy what is wonderful about Tampa Bay! The best beaches in the immediate area are Clearwater Beach, Bird Key, and St. Pete Beach. If you have a rental car and want to go to the best beach in the are though, take the hour or so drive down to Sarasota and go to Siesta Key. It consistently ranks as one of the best beaches in America and you won't regret it.

I mentioned Cigar City Brewery earlier and it is definitely a sight to go to. They have the Brewery as well as a Brewpub. Check out their web site and plan a visit to see them. You should also check out Coppertail, Tampa Bay Brewing Company, and Rapp Brewery.

Welcome

Again, welcome to Tampa my Northern Ranger friends. The weather is nice, the beer is cold, and the beaches are wet and sandy. We're more than happy to host the few of you that come down to witness Eastern Conference Finals games in Tampa.