Amalie Arena, part i, an attractive downtown arena


Amalie Arena is located in the Chanelside district of downtown Tampa. It is home to the Tampa Bay Lightening NHL team. Built in 1996, is one of a long row of civic-urban-image buildings — the Aquarium, the cruise ship port, the history museum, the arena, the convention centre, two large hotels. The landscaping along the waterfront consists of broad walkways and cycling paths. The scale of everything is HUGE.

The approach to the main entrance plaza is shown above. There were a number of statuary tributes to players and events. The plaza is elevated above a sunken street that runs across the front of the building, exiting on the far side of the plaza.

Other sculptures took advantage of the brite florida sunshine:


and the large building on the opposite side of the plaza is a parking garage:



The glazing and exterior finishes were were detailed and had a sophisticated higher-end office building look and feel:



walking around towards the south side of the building, it was necessary to descend from the elevated plaza, as shown below, with the garage to the left and the arena hidden behind the water park feature on the right, across the street. Note the street entrance to under the plaza:


Back up on the plaza, the view down to the street level reveals the size of the garage service road. Also visible is a streetcar from the downtown connector route that winds through several downtown neighbourhoods. It looked more like a tourist attraction than a serious crowd-hauling transit system:

IMG_2184Walking down the stairs to the left of this road … shows how deluxe the florida landscaping is around the “back” of the arena. Indeed, the arena is so well finished on all sides I hesitate to call any side of it the back.


Here’s the back, or far-side-of-the-Chanelside view of the building, which from a distance looks like a large office complex:


The least-developed side of the arena is shown below. The grand plaza is on the far side of the building, and the main street side is around the building to the right:



Continuing around the building to the right, we approach a secondary main entrance that leads down from the city street via a large [but not as large as the upper entry plaza] attendee forecourt:




The two pic above are taken from the street that passes in front of the arena. I was surprised that the busy street felt calm, that someone cared how it looked. The edges of the arena and the block that contained it were not all given over to parking lots (more on this tomorrow).



And even had a real entrance from the sidewalk:




The facade of the arena facing the street was essentially the same as that facing the chanel on the opposite side:


The Amalie Arena is still attractive two decades after it was designed, and beautifully landscaped and nicely integrated with the surrounding sidewalks and streets. The town planning part of the project is successful on the “chanelside” side, with adjacent parks, waterfront, walkways, and connections to other monumental civic structures. Of course, it is monumental that gives the clue: this is a big building, set amongst other very large buildings, with huge swathes of grand landscaping. Hockey fans can enjoy the winter sport and then wander outside in the evening warmth amongst the palm trees. But it is anything but intimate.

There is, of course, the matter of the parking garage bookmarking the other side of the grand entry plaza. Tomorrow we we look at just where all the other game goers actually park.




9 thoughts on “Amalie Arena, part i, an attractive downtown arena

  1. You’re right, this is MUCH more attractive than the arena you showed yesterday. But there are still a lot of empty plazas and seldom-used dead space around the building. I’ve always wondered why large public buildings like this – and their monstrous parking garages – can’t be surrounded by small-scale, outward facing mixed use buildings with ground floor retail.

    I was really impressed by huge medieval cathedrals in several European cities that had large ceremonial fore-courts and several grand entrances on the sides, but had cafes and retail nestled all around. Take a Google Streetview wander around the Cathedral of our Lady in Antwerp. The little streets are kind of haphazard and medieval-chaotic, but lively and intensely interesting. And the building still gets to perform its ongoing but occasional public function without creating a sterilized zone around it.,4.401922,3a,75y,244.95h,102.92t/data=!3m5!1e1!3m3!1sgsuhIZ__RI0blBHSIB4GAg!2e0!3e5

    1. It’s all about the choices we make. By looking at what others have done, I hope we can steal the best and avoid the worst. Thanks for the cathedral link; I wanna go.

    2. Having spent a lot of time at Lansdowne recently, I can’t help think that, by this metric (small-scale, outward-facing retail around an arena), Lansdowne is actually quite successful. I don’t think any of the designs in the works for LeBreton have been released, but I can only hope they’re honestly half as … useful … as the Lansdowne development turned out.

      1. Interesting. I experience the Lansdowne buildings as very disappointing, at least as I walk around in the winter. The bank buildings, and so forth give me a poor experience as I walk in from Bank Street. Lots of blocks of glass. Maybe from May until October it will be different, but Ottawa is also the other six months of weather. As an aside, it is always nice to go up the escalator to Whole Foods, except I have to open another savings account to afford shopping there; I can do that. I found that in Tucson too. It was always fun to shop there once in awhile and I learned to budget for it.

        1. I’m with the other Matt. Lansdowne has certainly created an energy around the stadium that is missing from most of these other large sports facilities. Even with the extreme cold, the portions of Lansdowne that are open tend to be busy with people, and I expect that will ramp up in the warmer months. Architectural tastes are obviously very personal, but I find that the designers have succeeded in creating a real people place where one did not previously exist, and one that complements the urban park. Lebreton would do better to aspire to the Lansdowne model than to the Tampa arena at least.

  2. This arena was extensively renovated in 2012-13, which I believe included a number of the public realm improvements that you feature. I expect that much of what you describe is quite new.

  3. Even though this appears somewhat nicer than the previous arena, there don’t seem to be a lot of people around in either set of photos. Presumably since in the absence of an event there just isn’t a lot to do at these huge arena sites?

    With arenas I think the best you can hope for is that it’s not a total pedestrian disaster. The Verizon Center in Washington DC is one of the “least worst” example I can think of — mostly because it has a very compact footprint (one large city block), and has a number of street level storefronts built in (granted, they’re mostly fast-food:

    1. evensteven: I was wandering around Tampa on a holiday, plus I tend not to take pic of people but of the geography only. At Orlando, there was a show on while I was there, but everone was indoors except for the tigers and the anti-circus protesters and the street-people. The difficulty in having space for crowds but on non-crowd days is one of the reasons I was so impressed by the Amway Arena in Orlando – the plaza expanded onto the street when there were crowds, and shrunk back to a very wide sidewalk when there weren’t.

  4. As an example of possibilities I would not discount the “new” arena in Montreal adjacent to the old (and still in use) Windsor CP Rail Station now serving commuters only. Around it you find cafes, office buildings, a hotel a square nearby and very little parking. People just have to make arrangements in adjacent areas and use transit (which is conveniently underground nearby). I think the more space you have at your disposal the les interesting a design will result. Sorry no photos, but look at Google views. By the way do not consider this a vote or the location, but just a planning comment.

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