Garden draws praise for Amalie Arena, Delaware North

When VenuesToday announced the winners of its 2015 Silver Spoons Annual Awards, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Amalie Arena were honored with the Best Sustainable Initiative.

That initiative – an onsite hydroponic garden – is guided by Delaware North Sportservice, which operates food, beverage and retail services at Amalie Arena. Sportservice General Manager Bruce Ground and his culinary team have led the charge in transforming the venue’s food operation to include a variety of produce grown in the gardens – giving fans a truly local taste.

In awarding Amalie Arena and the Lightning, the sports business magazine said the following:

Hydroponic garden: With no space available at the facility, Amalie Arena decided to go vertical and build a deck over the cooling pipes on the east side of their arena, which is located in downtown Tampa. The 14-foot-by-80-foot deck was completed during the summer of 2014 and now produces the equivalent of an acre of fresh vegetables and plants due to 125 towers of stacked planting pots. There are more than 3,000 growing spaces among the 125 towers of planting pots. The hydroponic garden, which cost approximately $30,000, was built with PVC pipes designed to deliver and then recollect water not used by the plants. The closed system captures the unused water and nutrients at the bottom of the tower and drains back into the 900-gallon tank below the deck. This method makes the garden 90 percent more water-efficient compared to an open water system, requiring the tanks to only be refilled every 10 days. The initiative was inspired by Mary Milne, the Lightning’s vice president of guest experience, and then executed as an overall organizational effort to find a more efficient way to use fresh produce. In the garden’s early stages, Amalie Arena sought help from a local hydroponic farm, Urban Oasis, to help grow the finest produce. The garden now grows butter leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, micro green mix, arugula, spinach, turnips, eggplant, basil, strawberries, cilantro, lemon balm, dill and rosemary. The produce that the garden grows is currently served as player meals, and also helps serve the culinary needs in the club restaurant at Amalie Arena, as well as in suites and other premium areas. In the future, the hope is to produce enough to have the hydroponic garden help supply the needs of main concourse concessions as well.