Friday, March 18, 2011

We Can Rebuild Them. We Have The Technology.

Photo by Me

I had a really interesting conversation with my friend Linda yesterday. It was about the Lightning and the types of merchandise sold in the St. Pete Times Forum. On the terrace level, there is a small team store that mostly sells jerseys and things for the visiting teams that are coming into town. Linda found out that that store is going to be closed come next season and only Lightning merchandise will be sold in the building. I think it's a good idea. She thought that excluding the merchandise for other teams means losing a lot of money. A lot of visiting fans come to town, especially fans of the Canadian teams. While I see her point, I can't help but disagree.

An example was brought up was the Florida Panthers. I have never been to their arena in Sunrise, but Linda likes their team store in that it sells things for all of the other teams in the league. Now, I know there are Panthers fans out there and I don't want what I'm about to say to be insulting. HOWEVER. Visiting teams' fans seem to make up a larger portion of the attendance than Panthers fans. In that situation, it makes business sense to market to them. The Lightning still attract a lot of out of towners, probably because so many Floridians are from somewhere else. If the ownership is spending so much money to re-do the building and improve the product on the ice it makes sense that they want to establish themselves on their own.

A lot has been made about the new owners and management of the team using teams like the Detroit Red Wings as a template for how they want the Lightning to be viewed. Part of doing that is breaking away from the stigma that the Sun Belt expansion teams carry with them. It means establishing their own identity and creating a legacy and mystique of an older franchise. Visiting fans are more than welcome to come to Tampa and spend their money in the Lightning's arena. I see nothing wrong with them not being able to stock up on new gear while they're there.

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