LT’18 Sports Day

Emily Farkas, MacDill Air Force Base

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” – Vince Lombardi

As a member of the military, there is an unwritten, courteous rule that where ever you are stationed you cheer for the home team.  Thankfully, being stationed at MacDill Air Force Base makes it very easy to support the local Tampa Bay sports teams because what we learned during LT’18’s Sports Day is that the good plays extend beyond the ice, pitch, diamond, or field!

We started our day on the ice at Amalie Arena with LT’17 GOAT providing breakfast and a behind-the-scenes tour of Amalie Arena with Adam Lawson, Manager of Inside Sales and Nikki Gregory, Corporate Sales Manager. LT18 were “benched” for a rare photo opportunity in the players’ area and a fun picture with the Zamboni. After the tour, we received a warm welcome and sponsor remarks from Day Chair, Scott Garlick (LT’10), Senior Director, Managing Principal-Tampa Bay, Cushman and Wakefield, who certainly shared his passion for Sports Day. Next we were introduced and impressed by Jay Feaster, Vice President, Community Hockey Development, Tampa Bay Lightning. He presented the remarkable outreach and impact the Tampa Bay Lightning have on the community through their “Build the Thunder” and “Build the Thunder 2.0” programs, which is made possible by the Industry Growth Fund, a specific allocated fund built into the National Hockey League’s collective bargaining agreement that allocates a portion of league revenues to community programs. Starting in 2015, Lightning Chairman and Governor, Jeff Vinik, committed a 5-yr, $6M plan to put hockey sticks in the hands of 100K youth, 500 sets of hockey gear with Physical Education programs, target 100 7th graders for gear/training, and finally create 10 Junior Varsity Hockey Teams. In 3yrs, it’s clear by the numbers that the Lightning will exceed their goals. Furthermore, “Build the Thunder 2.0” uses the physics of hockey to teach STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) lessons in the schools. These programs as well as the numerous camps and clinics provided in the Tampa Bay community leave no doubt that the Lightning have a strong fan base to cheer them on during playoffs. Go Bolts!

Following Mr Feaster’s presentation, we received a brief on The Value of Sports Tourism from Rob Higgins, Executive Director, Tampa Bay Sports Commission and which he shared the economic impacts of bringing events like the NHL All-Star Event, the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four, and the NFL’s Super Bowl to Tampa Bay. For example, the NHL All-Star Event had an increase in hotel reservations by 2K and private/commercial air travel by 60% & 18% respectively. Rob also highlighted that the event had over 5K media mentions that directly supported the overall economic impact of $16M.

Perhaps the best part of the Amalie Arena visit was the special guest appearance by Brian Bradley, Tampa Bay Lightning ’92-’98. His passion for the Lightning makes him the perfect community relations representative and makes you think he could still hit the ice for the playoffs! We even received a special edition, autographed copy of “25 Years of Thunder.”

Our next bus stop was Al Lang Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rowdies pitch, across the bridge conveniently located in downtown St. Petersburg.  Lee Cohen, Chief Operating Officer and Vice President, Tampa Bay Rowdies, provided a welcome & tour of the facilities to include the pitch and ended at the Rowdies locker room. While we only had one LT classmate wearing a Rowdies shirt, all of us left with a generous Rowdies swag bag (including the new “Kick in the Grass” craft brew by Big Storm Brewery) that we could use to support our local #1-ranked USL team. Following the tour, Bill Edwards, Chairman, CEO and Governor, Tampa Bay Rowdies, shared a marketing video about the Rowdies program and shared his enthusiasm for his relatively new found love for soccer. The visit ended with Mr Cohen providing tickets to the next Rowdies match. Note: My young boys and their friends had a great time and enjoyed the access to the players at the end of the match!) Let’s Go Rowdies!

After the Rowdies, we headed down the street to Tropicana Field to visit the Tampa Bay Rays. We heard a State of the Rays brief from Brian Auld, President, Tampa Bay Rays; he spent a good deal of time discussing the pending move of the team to Ybor. We were provided a first-class baseball fare lunch and had the opportunity to watch an inning of the Rays vs. Texas Rangers game (Rays won!). We never left empty-handed all day…we left Tropicana Field with a bobble head and sunglasses.

Our final stop of the day was at Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We started with a behind the scenes tour of the practice field, cafeteria and the team locker room. Next we heard from Atul Khosla, Chief Corporate Development and Brand Officer, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, about the recent efforts to update the Bucs brand. A panel discussion continued on the brand discussion and allowed Q&A. The end of the day concluded with a debrief in the lobby of One Bucs Place to reflect on the days events and a generous swag bag.

While not mentioned enough during the day, all of the organizations we visited support the military and their families in a way I’ve never seen in 20 years of military service. Along with providing free tickets, youth camps, visits to the base with team members/coaches/cheerleaders, and more, It is easy to applaud these Tampa Bay home teams!

Special thanks to our sponsor for the day Cushman&Wakefield!


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