Jason Aughey, senior director at Tampa Bay Sports Commission, points to the NCAA Men’s Frozen Four (coming April 7-9 to Amalie Arena) as the type of success he likes to replicate. College hockey’s national championship is back in the Sunshine State for the second time since 2012, continuing a trend of repeat business that’s made Tampa one of the hottest sports tourism destinations in the country. While marquee NCAA events and the Super Bowl are commonplace for the region, it continues its focus on youth and amateur tournaments to fill the annual calendar, Aughey reports. Connect Sports spoke to Aughey about building long-term partnerships with events and what’s ahead in Tampa.
How was Tampa able to bring back the Frozen Four so quickly?
When we hosted in 2012, it was the first time the championship had been in the Southeast. Fans would ask if hockey is really played in Florida and that motivated us a lot. There were initiatives we created in concert with the NCAA to raise the bar. We set an attendance record during the semifinals that we ended up breaking during the championship. Coming off that, the NCAA unveiled its next bid cycle so that was fresh on people’s mind.
How will the experience be different four years later?
We’re fortunate the tourism industry is booming here. You see the advent of new hotels and restaurants. We have a brand-new river walk connecting all of downtown that will resonate with folks. There have also been significant upgrades to the Amalie Arena, which will host the Frozen Four. Those who attended in 2012 will be blown away by how the arena has improved in terms of guest experience and all of its bells and whistles. It’s one of the top arenas in the country now.