TAMPA, Fla. - Tampa Bay Lightning fans hoping to secure a ticket for 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs may have their post-season dream come true.
For now, tickets for Round 1 are available exclusively to premium season ticket members. Beginning Friday morning, all other season ticket members can grab a seat. However, the biggest Bolts headline of the week is that fan capacity at Amalie Arena will increase to 7,000 for the first round of playoffs.
The remaining inventory will be offered to paused season ticket members and Lightning Priority Access Club members. If there are any leftover tickets, they will be made available to the Lightning Insider email club. Those interested can sign up here for free.
Vinik Sports Group made the announcement Wednesday saying 7,000 available seats will bring capacity to 37% at the venue. Officials said they're making the expansion in consultation with local health and government officials along with the National Hockey League.
Face coverings will still be required, except when fans are eating or drinking. Seating pods will be separated by four to five-and-a-half feet, depending on the location.
Fans remember there were no spectators allowed during the first ten Tampa Bay Lighting games of the 2020-2021 season. Then, in early March, 3,800 fans were allowed in the stands for home games. Capacity then increased to 4,200 in late April, where it will remain until the playoffs.
Lightning forward Pat Maroon said it will be nice to have more support in the seats as his team attempts to repeat their quest for the cup.
"In the beginning, it’s kind of weird. We’re so used to no fans. And then you have about 3,500 or whatever, we have (4,200) in the stands and it feels like it’s a packed house," he said Wednesday. "So, I can only imagine what 37% capacity is going to feel like. It’s going to be electric, probably. And we’re so used to it now, so I’m pumped up. And I’m sure the guys are going to be pumped up. So it’s going to be great."
The Bolts have qualified for the playoffs for a fourth straight season, matching a franchise record for the longest streak. It's the 13th time overall in franchise history. On Wednesday night, the team moved up the Central Division standings with a 6-2 win over the Dallas Stars. Both teams return to Amalie Arena Friday night to close out their regular-season series.
The exact start of the playoffs is still unknown. It may be a week delayed due to makeup games. Even as capacity expands during the first round of the playoffs, all previous health and safety protocols will be staying in place, including mandatory masks. Seating pods are separated by at least four feet.
In an announcement from the team, officials said season ticket members will be notified of their priority ticket purchase time in advance via email.
"Remaining ticket inventory will then be offered to Lightning Paused STMs and Lightning Priority Access Club members. Any remaining tickets will be made available to the Lightning Insider email club."
The regular season ends May 19, but ticket availability for potential future playoff rounds is to be determined.