By Nick Nahas

The Tampa Bay Lightning are breaking ground in September on a new state-of-the-art practice facility. The Ice Sports Forum, where the team currently practices, will add on new features to the facility including a brand new locker room, weight room, training room, press room and player lounge. It will have new features that are not currently available at Amalie Arena, including hydrotherapy facilities, a video room/theater and a new rink dasher system for the North Rink.

These improvements are made possible through a $6 million dollar donation from Lightning owner and chairman, Jeff Vinik. The Ice Sports Forum has pledged $500,000 in improvements as well. The Forum and the Lightning have extended their lease through 2027. The facility is expected to be finished in the spring of 2018.

“We have addressed a number of things as an organization on and off the ice since purchasing the team in 2010, but one thing that has not been improved to this point has been the team’s practice venue,” said Vinik. “That will change this fall when we break ground. We remain steadfast in our commitment to winning the Stanley Cup, and that begins with providing every resource for our players to train and prepare.”

Since Vinik bought the team in 2010, he has remained committed to making the Lightning a world-class organization. The only thing left for the Lightning to improve upon is their practice facility, which is in the works to becoming one of the better facilities in the NHL.

According to Brian Breseman, Lightning Director of Public Relations, the goal for the Lightning is to make the players as comfortable as possible and provide them with the best opportunity to succeed on the ice. The Forum is located at the edge of Brandon, close to Amalie Arena in Tampa, where the team plays, and where the players live.

Since 1997, the Lightning and the Ice Sports Forum have been partners. The commitments both parties have made ensure that they will continue the trend for at least another 10 years.

The 18,000-sq. ft. addition to the Forum will be bigger than the 14,500-sq. ft. Amalie Arena facility.

“I would like to personally thank the Ice Sports Forum and owner Tom Bradley for being a great partner of the organization for more than 20 years,” said Vinik. “We hope to continue the relationship for another 20 years or more.”

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Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.