Fast forward eight years and the Lightning are now recognized nationally as one of the top organizations in North American sports, having appeared in the National Hockey League's Eastern Conference Final four times (2011, 2015, 2016, 2018), advancing to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015. Off the ice, the Lightning brand has been completely revitalized and transformed, having been 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. Entering the 2018-19 season, the Lightning have enjoyed 158 consecutive sellout crowds at AMALIE Arena. Vinik now sits as a member of the Executive Committee of the National Hockey League's Board of Governors.
In executing his plan to bring a world class franchise to life in Tampa Bay, Vinik has invested more than $60 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 $30 million in Tampa Bay area charities through a variety of programs and donations, the most notable being the Lightning Community Heroes program, in which $50,000 is donated to worthy individuals and their non-profits of choice at each Bolts home game.
On April 11, 2016, the Viniks announced the extension of the Community Heroes program, pledging an additional $10 million to honor grass roots heroes with $50,000 for their respective non-profits at each Lightning home game for an additional five seasons.
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 construction of phase one already underway, the district will eventually include a School of Medicine for the University of South Florida, corporate office buildings, three Marriott hotel properties, residences, retail, restaurants, entertainment and improved infrastructure.
Vinik is also the impetus behind Embarc Collective, an innovation hub opening in downtown Tampa in 2019. Embarc will formally bring together startup companies, venture capitalists, academic resources, and startup-focused partners in a central physical hub to help open opportunities, inspire iteration, push progress and put Tampa Bay on the map as a prime destination for diverse startup talent to make an impact.
Jeff and Penny Vinik continue to personally invest in the community, bringing one-of-a-kind art installations "The Beach," "Art of the Brick," and "Love is Calling" to the city of Tampa. The Beach came to AMALIE Arena in 2016 and featured 1.2 million translucent white balls, creating an indoor beach for nearly 100,000 patrons. Art of the Brick, the first exhibit to focus exclusively on the use of LEGO bricks as an art medium, was brought to downtown Tampa in 2017. Love is Calling, an iconic infinity room, made by Kusama, considered the best female artist in the world, will be a featured exhibit at the Tampa Museum of Art for six months during 2018-19.
The Vinik 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 and Jeff is committed to serve as the Chairman of the American Heart Association's 2018 Tampa Bay Heart Walk.
In August of 2018, the Viniks helped cut the ribbon on the $2.5 million Jeff and Penny Vinik Family Winston Park Boys and Girls Club in east Tampa. In 2017, the Viniks donated $1 million to relief efforts after Hurricane Harvey struck the state of Texas and another $1 million (through the Lightning Foundation) after Hurricane Irma devastated much of the state of Florida. In September 2017, the University of South Florida's Muma College of Business renamed its dual-degree sport-focused graduate program the Vinik Sport and Entertainment Program, a result of Jeff and Penny's support of the University and this field of study.
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.
In addition to his primary business interests in Tampa Bay, Vinik maintains interests in several other entities, including aXiomatic, a Los Angeles-based esports and gaming company of which he is co-executive chairman. Founded in September of 2016, aXiomatic is the majority owner of the Team Liquid franchise, a stalwart esports franchise, which won DOTA2's The International 2017 and secured back-to-back North American championships in 2018 for League of Legends' North American League Championship Series.
Jeff and Penny reside in South Tampa and have four children: Danny, Jared, Kyra and Joshua.