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Tampa Bay Lightning take a ride with Uber

NHL ice hockey team Tampa Bay Lightning has become the latest North American major league sports franchise to enter into a partnership with transportation network company Uber.

The length of the deal was not disclosed, but the agreement will at least cover the 2016-17 season, which got underway this week.

As part of the deal, dedicated Uber pick-up lanes will be opened close to the team’s Amalie Arena home ground on game days.

Uber drivers will also benefit from the scheme, with fans able to nominate their favourite drivers for entry into a random draw to become the ‘Uber All-Star Driver of the Month’. The winner will receive a VIP experience at a Lightning game.

“As we look to transform the land surrounding Amalie Arena over the next several years, we feel it is important to team up with a partner like Uber to maintain the world-class fan experience that our guests have come to expect for their commute to our events,” Lightning chief executive Steve Griggs said.

“We envision Uber playing a key role along with other alternative transportation methods to move our guests quickly to and from the arena.”

The Tampa Bay Times newspaper noted the partnership has been signed despite the fact that ridesharing is currently viewed as illegal in Hillsborough, Tampa’s home county, by the Public Transport Corporation.

Uber and its main competitor, Lyft, have fought a long-running battle with the PTC, which has handed out regular fines to drivers from the two firms.

“Uber has assured us that they are not doing anything wrong; our goal here is simply to serve our fans and respond to their needs,” Lightning spokesman Bill Wickett told the Times.