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Can you afford to continue to be a Tampa Bay area sports fan?

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The price of watching sports in Tampa Bay area is going up.

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced increases in their ticket prices Thursday as much as 10.5 percent. The Lightning currently has the lowest-priced tickets in the NHL at an average cost of $49.33. Team Marketing Report’s Fan Cost Index cites the Lightning as the third most affordable NHL experience for a family of four to attend and ESPN the Magazine recently ranked the Lightning third in professional sports and No. 1 in the NHL in its Ultimate Pro Sports Team Standings.

Season ticket member prices for 2016-17 will increase at an average of 7 percent over 2015-16, with some ticket prices increasing by less than 2 percent. With the exception of Chase Club members, no Season Ticket Member will see an increase of more than $6 per game per seat from 2015-16 to 2016-17. Nearly 30 percent (or almost 5,500) of all seats in Amalie Arena will be priced at $30 or less per game for Season Ticket Members, with an entry level price point of $21 per game.

Fans will have the option to become a “Bolt for Life.” The unique payment plan will allow STMs the ultimate savings opportunity by spreading out their season ticket commitment over 12 interest-free payments. During the renewal process, members will also have the opportunity to reserve their seats for any potential home playoff games to be played in 2016.

The team points out that owner Jeff Vinik has spent near the cap in each season.

While a 7 percent increase may seem difficult for Lightning fans, it beats the 20-percent raise by the Bucs. The cheapest Tampa Bay Bucstickets will rise from 30 percent to 40.

The Bucs point out they have not increased ticket prices in eight seasons, although they haven’t reached the playoffs in any of those seasons, either. They haven’t won a post-season game in 13 years. Clearly, the team is hoping that momentum created by quarterback Jameis Winston is worth the price of admission.

“We are one of only two clubs that hasn’t increased their ticket prices over the past eight seasons,” said chief operating officer Brian Ford. “As a reason, in 2015 our ticket prices were the second-lowest in the league. In 2015, we will continue to offer some of the NFL’s lowest ticket prices.”

The Rays offer a “Big 22” plan as well as season tickets, ranging from $550 to $1,603.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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