TAMPA BAY - Tampa Bay Lightning chairman and governor Jeff Vinik will reach two significant milestones in his ownership of the Lightning franchise this week as the Lightning host the Calgary Flames on Saturday, February 29 and the Boston Bruins on Tuesday, March 3. First, the Lightning's Community Hero Program, which is solely supported by Jeff and Penny Vinik, will reach the $20 million mark when the team honors its 397th hero during the first period of Saturday afternoon's game against Calgary. Second, March 3, 2020 marks the 10-year anniversary of Vinik's purchase of the Lightning franchise, the leasehold rights to AMALIE Arena and approximately six acres of adjacent land.
An entity controlled by Vinik purchased the franchise on March 3, 2010, promising a comprehensive transformation of the franchise while pledging to make a significant positive impact in the Tampa Bay community. Upon acquiring the Lightning, Vinik vowed to make the organization "world-class," creating an unrivaled fan experience while putting together a team of which Tampa Bay sports fans would be proud, on and off the ice. Ten years later, the Lightning stand as one of the premier organizations in professional sports. The Lightning have enjoyed 231 consecutive sellouts (19,092 fans) at AMALIE Arena, the Vinik's have donated more than $30 million to Tampa Bay area non-profits and the Lightning team is working to make the NHL Playoffs for the seventh time under the Vinik ownership. The Lightning have reached the Eastern Conference Finals four times under Vinik, playing in the Stanley Cup Final in 2015. The Lightning were lauded by both ESPN as the No. 1 team in professional sports in the media giant's Ultimate Standings (also ranking in the Top 10 in six of seven years), as well as by the Sports Business Journal as one of five finalists for Sports Team of the Year in 2016
This past week, Vinik announced the creation of the Vinik Sports Group, LLC. Vinik Sports Group (VSG) not only serves as the parent company for the Lightning, the lease holding entity for AMALIE Arena and other sports and entertainment assets, it also becomes the umbrella brand for three new business verticals: VSG Commercial Sales, VSG Facilities and VSG Live. Strategic Property Partners, LLC (the development company created with Cascade Investment, LLC to focus on Water Street Tampa) and Vinik Family Office, LLC remain separate entities.
In executing his plan over the past 10 years to bring a world class franchise to life in Tampa Bay, Vinik has invested more than $80 million in private funding into the publicly-owned AMALIE Arena to create a guest-first facility recognized as one of the finest in the NHL. The Heroes program has made contributions to 518 non-profits in the seven-county Tampa Bay region, totaling $20 million.
The Lightning's success under Vinik has coincided with the emergence of a development company, Strategic Property Partners (SPP), LLC and its plan to develop approximately 60 acres in downtown Tampa's south core into a new district entitled 'Water Street Tampa'. SPP, a partnership between Vinik and Cascade Investment, LLC of Kirkland, Washington, is expecting to deliver approximately $3 billion in investment to bring Water Street Tampa to life and reinvent the blocks surrounding AMALIE Arena into a walkable, 24-7 live, work, play and stay wellness district. With one building (the University of South Florida's Morsani College of Medicine) completed and eight buildings currently under construction in phase one, the Water Street District is quickly turning from vision to reality.
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