Tampa Bay has officially submitted a bid to host the 2018 World Junior Championship and, according to a report, is “very formidable in the conversation.” Tampa is set to host the NCAA’s Frozen Four for the second time in five seasons in 2016 and the Lightning have had a top-10 average attendance for the past three seasons.
While it’s not considered a traditional hockey market, Tampa Bay has shown they’ve got love for the game. Now, in an attempt to showcase their incredible fan support on the international stage, the city has put in an official bid for the 2018 World Junior Championship, which is to be held in the United States.
According to the Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith, the group hoping to bring the tournament to Florida filed its official bid by the end of June and they’re hoping USA Hockey, which will narrow down the applications and suggest a host to the IIHF, leans in favor of Tampa Bay.
“Tampa is very formidable in the conversation,” Dave Fischer, the senior director of communications for USA Hockey, told Smith. “The (Lightning) owner (Jeff Vinik) and sports commission is aggressive. We’ll see where it winds up.”
Fischer said told Smith the host city for 2018 will be decided by the end of the year, in time for the 2016 tournament, which kicks off in Helsinki, Finland in December.
While some would consider the Lightning’s recent success with regards to attendance has more to do with their 2014-15 post-season run than anything, history has shown Tampa Bay has fully embraced the club, especially over the past several campaigns.
Over the past five seasons, the Lightning have averaged an attendance in the neighborhood of 18,500, which is brought down significantly by their 18th ranked attendance of 17,268 in 2010-11. However, over the past three seasons, the team has been a top 10 NHL city with regards to attendance, ranking as high as ninth, with an average attendance of 19,055, in 2012-13.
This upcoming season, Tampa Bay will host its second NCAA Frozen Four men’s national championship tournament in the past five years, which is impressive considering Florida doesn’t have a single Division I or Division III men’s hockey program.
If selected as the host, Amalie Arena, the home of the Lightning that was formerly known as the Tampa Bay Times Forum, would be the main arena, with Smith reporting Germain Arena in Estero, Fla., would serve as the alternate venue.