The University of South Florida Bulls play football at Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Bucs. Tickets are pretty cheap, often around $20 for exciting Division IA Big East football against conference rivals like West Virginia, Pitt, Syracuse, Connecticut and others.
We saw USF play the University of Pittsburgh on November 20th 2010. The defensive battle was tied 3-3 at the end of the first half and 10-10 at the end of the third quarter, then Pitt went ahead by seven at the beginning of the final quarter for the win. Pitt's running back Dion Lewis ran for 105 yards as the player of the game. The only other players who really performed on this day were the punters who combined for 9 kicks on this warm fall day.
My second game was on the Friday after Thanksgiving, 25 November 2011, to see USF vs Louisville. USF jumped to an early 17-3 lead, only to give up a late touchdown in the second quarter to enter the half ahead 17-10. Louisville turned it on in the second half, outscoring USF 24-7 to cruise to a 34-24 win. USF's backup quarterback, Bobby Eveld led the attack going a solid 20 for 35 with 210 yards and a TD. Darrell Scott, USF's top running back, was held to just 54 yards.
My third USF game was less than a week after my second a Thursday night game against West Virginia on national television. USF's starting quarterback, BJ Daniels, returned on this night after missing the previous three weeks with a shoulder injury. Daniels and the Bulls got off to a slow start, down 10-0, but closing the gap to 13-7 by the end of the half. Late in the fourth quarter, with West Virginia up 27-20, USF's JaQuez Jenkins returned an interception 24 yards for a TD and really get the fans into the game. Unfortunately, USF fumbled on their next possession and WVU drove the length of the field to kick the game winning field goal as time expired.
No one likes the Yankees, we all know that. Everyone despises their vast riches, dozens of championships, and numerous multi-millionaires riding the bench. Everyone especially hates to get beat by this, this most disliked team in baseball.
But come spring training, Yankees fans in Florida mellow a bit. Maybe it's the warm weather in the middle of New York's winter. Maybe it's the meaningless games in March, some 6 or 7 months until baseball really matters. But for just one month out of the year, Yankees--and their fans--are bearable.
Go see a game a Steinbrenner Field near Raymond James Stadium, and you hear things like, "has the game already started?" and "who is the shortstop for the Yankees?" Even better, you might get the chance to see the Yankees double A pitchers give up a few late-inning runs, allowing your sorry team to close the gap, perhaps even pull out a victory.
Ahhh... spring is in the air... and hope springs eternal!
The Gulf Coast League Yankees are the New York York Yankees' Rookie League affiliate, and they play their home games at Yankee Complex in Tampa.
Yankees Complex is a small complex consisting of four ball fields. The GCL Yankees play their games on Field 1, just off Dale Mabry Drive. This field has just one set of wooden bleachers that might seat 200 on a good day... very small compared to the GCL Braves' field which seats some 10,000 people. During our visit to Yankee Complex to see the Yanks play the GCL Pirates, maybe 25 people showed up and the crowd was deathly silent. So quiet we could hear every word when Pirates' manager Tom Prince chewed out the second base umpire.
The Gulf Coast League was founded in 1964 and it consists of 16 teams in three divisions. Each team plays 60 games throughout the summer before a short postseason to determine the league champion.
Entry to most GCL games is free, there are no concessions, and the stands at the smaller fields offer no shade from the hot Florida summer sun.
The St Pete Times Forum was completed in 1996 as the home of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Tampa Bay Storm. Built at a cost of $139 million, the arena holds around 20,000 for sporting events and concerts.
The Tampa Bay Lightning began play in 1992 and they won the 2003-2004 Stanley Cup (I own a Penguins jersey that is older than this team!). In the team's early years, it gained headlines by allowing Manon Rhéaume to play goal in a preseason game, thus becoming the first woman ever to play in an NHL game.
I finally saw my first game here in February 2010 when the Bruins played the Lightning. After Boston scored the first five straight goals to take a 5-0 lead, they gave up the next four in a row and we saw a great 5-4 finish. This was also the Lightning's last home game before the Olympics, so their four Olympians, including team USA's Ryan Malone, were honored.
The games are very expensive:
$10 to $20 to park near the arena (free if you don't mind walking at least 5 blocks)
$22 to $200+ for tickets (though they have a few $10 each night when the ticket window opens)
$8 to $12 for beer
$8 to $10 for hot dogs
McKechnie Field in Bradenton, just 30 or 40 minutes south of Tampa, is the off-season home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. It is here the Major League Buccos host their annual Spring Training and Minicamp. In late 2009 the Pirates swapped Single A teams with Cincinnati and are moving the team from Sarasota here to Bradenton.
McKechnie Field is named after Pittsburgh native and Hall of Famer Bill McKechnie. The stadium was built in 1923 and renovated in 1991-93. The 6,500-seat venue had lights installed in 2007. This has been the training home of the Pirates since 1969.
Each year the New York Yankees hold spring training at Tampa's Steinbrenner Field, previously called Legends Field. The field was constructed in 1996 just across the street from Raymond James Stadium and is also the home of the minor league Class A Tampa Yankees.
Tickets for New York Yankees spring training games range from $17 to $25 and tickets for the Tampa Yankees are $3 or $5. This stadium seats 10,000 and lies next to the airport.
Just a few blocks away is another Yankees field called Yankees Complex, which is home to the Rookie League Gulf Coast League Yankees.
The Tampa Bay Ligntning is the current Stanley Cup Championship team. I've been a fan ever since there was a team . . . though I admit they've had some, ahem, rocky years.
Sadly, we don't seem to be doing that well right now, but keep checking . . . Tampa Bay can win the cup again!
The Ice Sports Forum was built the same year that the Tampa Bay Lightning was added to the NHL. There are two ice rinks here: one for free skating and figure skating lessons and one for hockey practice. Mostly, it's just little ones practicing there, but I've seen the Lightning practice there, too.
Equipment: Skate and equipment rentals are reasonable, but the proshop is completely overpriced. If you have your own gear, its worth lugging it down there.
Best bet is to call ahead for the schedule.
Hockey in Florida seems like a weird thing but the Tampa Bay Lightening won the 2004 Stanley Cup.
Stop by the box office on game days and maybe you can get some tickets to see them play.
The Ice Palace is also used for other events such as concerts, ice shows, and the Tampa Bay Storm.
Just found it is now known as the St. Petersburg Times Forum. It just shows its been awhile since i have been home.
The St Pete Time's Forum is home of the Tampa Lightening, 2003 South Eastern Division Champions and the 2004 Stanley Cup Champions. Check out a home game if you are in Tampa during hockey season (approx November-May). It is located downtown. Previously known as the "Ice Palace". The Forum is also used for various concert events and also home of the 2003 Arena Football World Champion Tampa Bay Storm.
If you are at the St Pete Times Forum for a Lightening or Storm home game make sure you stop by Shots for your pregame drinks. Its fitting to down a few shots of your favorite liquor before stumbling in for a game.
the st. pete times forum is home to the NHL tampa bay lightning ice hockey team. it is located in the channel side area just west of downtown. the forum also hosts rock concerts and other events.
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