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Steve Newborn / WUSF News

First, it was the Ice Palace - a homage to its main tenant, the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team.

Then, the then-St. Petersburg Times shelled out $30 million in 2002 for a 12-year deal to rename the palace the St. Pete Times Forum. That name shifted to the Tampa Bay Times Forum when the newspaper rebranded itself.

Now, it's the Amalie Arena.

In 2011, after Lightning owner Jeff Vinik purchased the Lightning, the naming rights deal was extended to 2018. Vinik announced today the Times is becoming the "exclusive print sponsor" of the 19,204-seat arena.

Wikimedia Commons

Busch Gardens' Falcon's Fury is finally open. After testing that took months, the tallest free-standing drop tower in North America is now giving people the chance to fall face-down towards the ground at 60 miles per hour.

Falcon's Fury is the main attraction of Pantopia - the new area of the theme park that opened in April.

Labor Day was created to celebrate the country’s labor movement and its social and economic achievements, but a new study from FIU’s Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy (RISEP) may dampen some of this year’s celebration.

Duke Energy Called Before State Regulators to Explain Billing Change

Aug 25, 2014

Duke Energy Florida will have to explain to state regulators an ongoing change in its billing process that two lawmakers say is spiking costs.

Public Service Commission Chairman Art Graham on Monday asked Duke Energy Florida President Alex Glenn to appear at a Sept. 4 meeting to address concerns raised by state Sens. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, about billing-cycle adjustments and related increased customer payments.

Glenn will be at the meeting, a company spokesman said.

Lynne Sladky/AP

The tourists stream to Florida in their cars, intent on a week at Disney or a sugar-sand seashore or a nonstop party on South Beach. Road weary and thirsty, they pull over at one of the state’s five official welcome centers. They walk inside, and then they look up.

“The best start under the sun,” reads a big sign. “FLORIDA ORANGE JUICE.”

Behind a counter, a woman sits with a stack of paper cups. “Welcome to Florida,” she says with a big smile. “Orange or grapefruit?”

The juice is cold and sweet. It tastes like the Sunshine State.

Florida had a record number of visitors during this past spring.

Gov. Rick Scott announced Tuesday that 24 million tourists visited the state during the second quarter of 2014.

That's a three percent jump over the same time period a year ago, and the largest second quarter ever for the state.

The Latest on Florida's Unemployment Numbers

Aug 15, 2014
wikipedia.org

July unemployment rates were released today. The unemployment rates in Florida from June to July were unchanged at 6.2 percent, but, Tampa Bay's unemployment rate rose from 6.3 percent to 6.8 percent, losing 7,000 jobs over the month.

The unemployment rate for the US in July is also at 6.2 percent. Florida’s unemployment rate has been less than or equal to the national rate for 14 of the last 15 months.

Since 2009, Florida has seen a steady increase in the number of visitors to the Sunshine State, and has had record tourism numbers. A new study by a non-partisan watchdog group shows Florida may now also be on track to meeting a big milestone: attracting 100 million visitors by 2015.

Will Seccombe is the head of Florida’s tourism agency, Visit Florida. He says there’s no question in his mind that the industry is on a steady upswing—as outlined in a report by Florida TaxWatch.

MOSI Gets $2 Million Grant from Florida Hospital

Jul 25, 2014
WUSF Public Media

Florida Hospital gave Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry $2 million on Friday. Long-time CEO Wit Ostrenko, who announced his retirement plans earlier this year, accepted the multimillion dollar check from Florida Hospital West Florida Region President/CEO Mike Schultz. Also in attendance were various board members of both institutions, along with State Sen. John Legg and Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham.

On the northern side of Ybor City sits the J. C. Newman Cigar Company factory, a family-owned business tucked inside a classic brick building nicknamed El Reloj, a nod to its clock tower. Both have defied the maw of modernity to outlive a century. But now J. C. Newman faces its biggest threat: the possibility that the Food and Drug Administration may introduce strict, expensive regulations on cigars that the Newman brothers, who operate the company, say could close the last working cigar factory in town.

Job Numbers Released; Florida Trending Upward

Jul 18, 2014
www.flickr.com

Florida is leading the nation in job growth, adding more than 37,000 jobs this month. The Tampa Bay area has added over 25,000 jobs in the last 12 months, third among metro areas in Florida, according to state officials..

A rise in jobs means a dip in the unemployment rate, the statewide unemployment rate for 2014 is 6.2 percent, down from 7.4 percent in June 2013. Jesse Panuccio, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, says the job picture is trending upward.

Florida's unemployment rate is now higher than the national rate.

The state's jobless rate in June was 6.2 percent. That's a slight dip from the previous month when it was 6.3 percent.

But the national unemployment rate is 6.1 percent. This is the first time in more than a year that Florida's rate is higher than the national rate.

The good economic news is that the state led the nation in job growth according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Speaking shortly before the final All-Star Game he'll oversee as Major League Baseball commissioner, Bud Selig again said Tuesday that the Tampa Bay Rays need a new ballpark. TBO.com reports Selig said he'll leave any decisions on if and where a new stadium would be built up to Rays owner Stuart Sternberg.

Cigar Factory Pushes Back on Proposed Regulation

Jul 9, 2014
Lottie Watts / WUSF

Gov. Rick Scott's office is continuing to push back against cigar regulations proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

Duke Energy Florida will host an open house on its proposed combined-cycle natural gas plant in Citrus County Thursday.

It will be held between 3 and 7 p.m. in the Magnolia room at the Plantation on Crystal River, 9301 W. Fort Island Trail, Crystal River.

On May 13, Duke Energy Florida announced plans to construct a new combined-cycle natural gas plant in Citrus County to supply 1,640 megawatts of generation to help serve Florida's approximately 1.7 million customers in 2018.

Port of Tampa

The Tampa Bay area has three options when it comes to the future of its cruise ship industry - and two of them would cost a lot of money.

That's the conclusion reached in a Florida Department of Transportation study released Tuesday.

For the second year in a row, Travel & Leisure magazine has ranked Tampa International Airport second on its "Best Domestic Airports" list.

Planet Money

On the heels of the chart showing how far your paycheck goes in over 350 U.S. cities (which was amazingly popular on our Facebook page), here's another great chart from the Planet Money folks.

Steve Newborn / WUSF

The old federal courthouse used to be one of the most imposing buildings in downtown Tampa. That was before federal officials decamped to a new skyscraper and left the old building to the harsh Florida elements. After being left empty for for decades, the courthouse is now the Le Meriden hotel. Today's grand opening has been a long time coming.

Look Out Spider-Man, Captain Citrus is Coming

Jun 13, 2014

Marvel Comics, the creative home of Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the X-Men, might soon revamp the Florida Department of Citrus' own caped crusader.

The state agency, as it redirects marketing dollars to help juice the industry's sales, expects to finalize talks in the next few weeks with the Disney-owned company on a contract worth about $1 million to redesign Captain Citrus from a rotund creature from the Planet Orange into a male superhero.

Department spokesman David Steele said the goal is to transform the state program into a global brand.

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