The “Tampa Bay Times” name will soon come down from the Forum in downtown Tampa, replaced by a new name “Amalie Arena,” named for the as-yet little-known oil and lubricants company based at Port Tampa Bay.
The transition thus ends a 12-year run when the St. Petersburg-based paper held the premiere naming rights to the stadium where the Tampa Bay Lightning play and where the nation's top entertainment acts often come to perform when in town.
“We hope you come to know who Amalie is, and what Amalie has in this area,” said Harry Barkett, one of four brothers who own the privately held company. Stepping so far out in the public is a significant move, Barkett said, but becoming more common in his industry. “Well, Lucas Oil is a competitor, and years ago when they made their deal for naming rights to a stadium, we thought 'These guys are crazy.' Well, now here we are.”
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The deal will give a big boost to Amalie's name recognition, Barkett said, particularly because the name of the arena is mentioned as the site for hundreds of concerts, sports games and events at the arena.
Now owned and run by four brothers, Amalie history stretches back more than 100 years to its founding in Pennsylvania in 1903, and Amalie is now the country's largest privately held blender and packager of motor oils and industrial lubricants. The company's main operations are in Port Tampa Bay, where it blends and bottles and ships 3,000 different kinds of oils and lubricants. The company makes motor oils sold under a number of other company's brand names, including Wal-Mart, Sam's Club and Advance Auto Parts.
In just the last few years, Amalie has started stepping out more into the public eye, first with billboards emblazoned with a double entendre: “One day you'll break down and try us.”
More recently, the company built two prototype 'quick lube” locations, but that's just a start. Barkett said they plan to open 100 or more in the wider Tampa Bay area in the next two years. If that project goes well, they may expand throughout the Southeast.
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In 2002, Times Publishing signed an arena naming rights deal with Palace Sports & Entertainment, then the parent company of the hockey team, a deal valued at about $30 million over a 12-year time frame, according to the Times. In 2011, after Jeff Vinik purchased the Lightning, the naming rights deal was extended to 2018.
Then last year, Amalie Oil partnered with the Lightning for naming rights to the Storm's arena football field.
Tampa Bay Times Chairman Paul Tash said the name change deal started to come together several months ago when Lightning officials approached the paper to ask if they'd like to make way for a new sponsor.
“It's satisfying for me to know that we've achieved our business purpose with this deal,” Tash said, adding that the Forum helped the paper when it changed names from the St. Petersburg Times to the Tampa Bay Times. “So this is a good time for a transition ... Our new name stuck more fully than we would have anticipated.”
The Times will still have its name in some places around the property, Tash said, so it's not a total exit, though Lightning officials said the name on the arena will come down in a matter of weeks, not months.