1997 Results | Game Coverage

Storm Debuts in Ice Palace with Royal Style

By Sam Wolfson
Contributing Editor

TAMPA, Fla. - The Tampa Bay Storm began a new chapter in their history tonight when they played their first home game in the Ice Palace. After 6 seasons, only 6 losses, and 4 championships in the Thunderdome, the Storm moved to Tampa's new arena. But, before the fireworks on the field started, there was an explosive ceremony, christening the new home of the Storm.

The show started with a video on the big screns of the arena. It showed the team packing a van outside ThuderDome, driving to Tampa, and arriving at the Ice Palace. Then, the spotlight turned to the skies as people started dropping in from everywhere. As music from "Phantom of the Opera" played, people slid down ropes from the top of the arena. Others rode a zip-line down to the field from the upper deck. Finally, the Storm's new mascot slid down a rope to land in the middle of the field.

As the Storm cheerleaders performed, two major differences between the ThunderDome and the Ice Palace were evident. When the lights are turned out in the Ice Palace, it is really dark. This makes it possible to have indoor fireworks and make player introductions more exciting. Another difference is the one man that you hear but never see, the announcer. The Storm brought in Orlando Magic and Tampa Bay Lightning PA announcer Paul Porter. Porter's distinct and exciting style makes games even more exciting for the fans.

Next was a highlight film of past Storm plays. Scenes from Areabowl victories and other memorable moments delighted the crowd. But, by far, the biggest cheers came when "The Play" was shown. This was the miraculous kickoff return for a touchdown against Albany by Stevie Thomas to win the game and is considered by many to be the single greatest play in the history of Arena Football. After the game tonight, Stevie Thomas said that the he wished he could have watched the highlights before the game.

Finally, the pregame festivities ended with a bang. A mysterious box was placed in the center of the field. Paul Porter counted down from 10 with fireworks going off the whole way. At the end, the box exploded with an ear-splitting bang. In the rubble appeared the ArenaBowl trophy and out stepped "The Dynamite Lady" Allison Bly. The Storm was introduced with fireworks and smoke, and the game was ready to begin. For the 11,202 people on hand to see this historic game, the Storm's debut was surely a smash hit.

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