Six years later, the Lightning are recognized nationally as one of the top organizations in North American professional sports, having appeared in the National Hockey League's Eastern Conference Final three times (2011, 2015, 2016), advancing to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015. Off the ice, the Lightning brand has been completely transformed and the organization has been lauded by both ESPN (ranking in the Top 10 of 122 major sports teams in five of the past six years, including No. 1 overall in 2016) and the Sports Business Journal (one of five finalists for Sports Team of the Year in 2016).
In executing his plan to bring a world class franchise to life in Tampa Bay, Vinik has invested more than $70 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. Additionally, under the umbrellas of the Vinik Family Foundation and the Lightning Foundation, Jeff and his wife Penny have invested more than $20 million in Tampa Bay area charities through a variety of programs and donations, the most notable being the Lightning Community Heroes program.
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 nearly 60 acres in downtown Tampa's south core. SPP, a partnership between Vinik and Cascade Investment, LLC of Kirkland, Washington, is expecting to deliver approximately $3 billion in investment to reinvent the blocks surrounding Amalie Arena into a walkable 24-7 live, work play and stay wellness district. Construction of phase one is scheduled to begin in 2017 and it will include a School of Medicine for the University of South Florida, corporate office buildings, a hotel, residences, retail, restaurants, entertainment and improved infrastructure.
Jeff and Penny Vinik continue to personally invest in the Tampa Bay community, most recently bringing "The Beach" to Amalie Arena in August, 2016. The interactive art installation featured 1.2 million translucent white balls, creating an indoor beach for nearly 100,000 members of the Tampa Bay community, free of charge.
On April 11, 2016, the Viniks announced the extension of the Lightning Community Heroes program, pledging $10 million to honor grass roots heroes with $50,000 for their respective non-profits at each Lightning home game for the next five seasons. They also committed $2.5 million in 2016 to establish the Jeff and Penny Vinik Family Winston Park Boys and Girls Club in east Tampa.
Jeff and Penny have served as the chairs of the American Cancer Society's Cattle Baron's Ball and Pavilion XXX, the signature gala for the Tampa Museum of Art. The family has also directly contributed to several local non-profits, including the Florida Aquarium, Tampa Museum of Art, the United Way of Suncoast, Metropolitan Ministries and Tampa Preparatory School.
Penny Vinik is the chair of a community arts initiative which is enabling Tampa Bay-based artists to display their works throughout Amalie Arena. She is Vice President of the Board of Trustees at Tampa Preparatory School and a board member of Tampa Museum of Art, where she led the search to select its Executive Director.
After growing up in New Jersey and attending high school at Riverdale Country School in New York City, Vinik graduated from Duke University (1981) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering and Economics. He went on to earn his Masters of Business Administration degree from the Harvard Business School, graduating in 1985.
Vinik was awarded Duke University's Distinguished Young Alumni Award in 1994, and he later served on the Duke University Board of Trustees. In May 2012 the family made a $10-million donation to Duke to establish a faculty challenge fund that is being used to hire and retain professors who focus on complex societal challenges such as engineering and related areas in energy, global health, brain sciences and the environment.
Vinik is a member of the Executive Committee of the National Hockey League's Board of Governors, and he serves on The Florida Council of 100 and on the Boards of Directors for Enterprise Florida, and West Florida Health, a partnership between Tampa General Hospital and Florida Hospital. He was recently named a visiting faculty member in the University of South Florida's Muma College of Business.
Jeff and Penny reside in South Tampa and have four children: Danny, Jared, Kyra and Joshua.