Monday, November 20, 2017
Human Interest

How do you pronounce Amalie Arena? Hint: you're doing it wrong

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Amalie Arena wants to get something out of the way.

Before going any further with major concerts by legendary performers or nationally televised sporting events, there's the simple matter of the downtown Tampa arena's name and how to say it.

Amalie, apparently, should rhyme with family, though some people have been saying it so it rhymes with homily. They've been saying it like Amélie, the sprightly protagonist in the 2001 French film of the same name.

The arena's communications team has noticed the creep of ah-mil-lee instead of AM-uh-lee for a while now, said Amalie Arena events marketing manager Angela Lanza.

And, like many of us with uncommon names, they cringed a little inside upon hearing it the wrong way, but did so silently, politely, since no one was actually stopping to ask if they were saying it right. In the wake of big announcements like July's Paul McCartney concert and January's NHL All-Star Game, they decided enough was enough and distributed a news release with a "friendly reminder" on pronunciation:

We have noticed varied pronunciations of the arena's name. AMALIE is pronounced AM-uh-lee (rhymes with family!). In addition, please refer to the building as "AMALIE Arena" rather than "The AMALIE Arena." Assistance in informing your staff/on-air talent of the proper pronunciation and styling is appreciated.

In September 2014, Amalie Oil took over naming rights to the Tampa Bay Lightning's home arena, which was previously the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the St. Pete Times Forum and the Ice Palace. It added a second sometimes-mispronounced venue to downtown Tampa, the first being the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. For the record, it's pronounced Straz, rhyming with "jazz." Director of communications Paul Bilyeu theorizes that perhaps, since it's a performing arts center, people think saying Straz like it rhymes with "Oz" sounds "fancier."

Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Amalie Oil executives pronounced Amalie like "family" during a news conference the day of the renaming. But only a few months later — during the Lightning-Blackhawks NHL finals — the Chicago Tribune felt there was enough confusion to write the story "Amalie Arena: What's it named for and how do you pronounce it?"

It was going on way before that.

"I've got the longest title in the company, because I've been here the longest," said Denny Madden, senior vice president for global sales and marketing, who said he's heard Amalie said wrong almost daily during his 46 years with Amalie Oil.

Who could know of the problem even longer than that?

"Amalie Oil? I haven't heard that name in half a century," said Elizabeth Sonneborn, 95, of Albany, N.Y. Her husband was a descendant of the Sonneborn brothers who founded Amalie Oil in 1903, and named it after their mother, Amalie.

She pronounces it like it rhymes with family, "and I'm the oldest person who would know," she said, though there was one other person who might be an authority on the topic.

Nobody understands the arena's dilemma like Elizabeth's 23-year-old granddaughter, Amalie.

Her family hasn't been connected to Amalie Oil for decades, but the arena is, in a way, named after her great-great- (she thinks) great-aunt, which, in a way, means it's named after her. So while she's never been able to find gift shop knickknacks with her name on them, people do send her photos of Amalie Arena, which is pretty cool.

And yes, people struggle to say her name correctly, too. She ruminated on it during a break from her job at a summer camp in the Adirondacks.

"It's so frustrating at Starbucks or when I'm ordering pizza that now I just tell them my name is Emily."

Contact Christopher Spata at cspata@tampabay.com. Follow @SpataTimes.

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