The Tampa Bay Lightning are a vital part of Tampa’s redevelopment. Their success has activated the Channel District and shined a serious spotlight on Tampa area sports. On game day, residents become the Thunder. Fans don their blue and white best, grab a bolt-nut from the Mini Doughnut Factory or some Lightning mix from Chef Inspired Gourmet Popcorn and prepare to cheer on the franchise that has lit up the NHL.
Their winning ways, affordable tickets, fantastic community/fan engagement and state of the art stadium have put the Tampa Bay Lightning on the top of ESPN’s Ultimate Standings list, which evaluates and ranks all franchises from the NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB. The Lighting ranked third for fan relations and stadium experience, second for ownership, eight for players, and fourth for affordability, among other categories.
Jeff Vinik bought the Tampa Bay Lighting in February of 2010 along with 5.5 acres around Amalie Arena for $170 million, reports ESPN. When he purchased the NHL team, he also invested in the city of Tampa, and since his arrival to our city the ROI has been phenomenal.
“Under coach Jon Cooper — a former standout junior hockey coach whom Yzerman groomed in the AHL — the Lightning have racked up an average of 102 points over the past three seasons and made the Eastern Conference finals twice. Yet fans pay 28 percent less than the NHL average to see games in Tampa (average ticket price in 2014-15: $44.50),” writes ESPN senior writer Peter Keating.
Vinik has invested over $70 million into renovations at Amalie Arena. With season ticket sales up from 3,000 to 14,500 under Vinik, the team is working hard to spread their fanbase and to nurture a love of hockey in the city of Tampa. The Lightning are distributing 100,000 sticks and balls to get local kids playing in driveways and on the streets before taking the ice.
“Forbes magazine says the Lightning have increased in value by 49 percent since 2011, to $260 million, and carry less debt than any comparable NHL franchise. Beyond those numbers, fans tell the story of an organization inspiring such loyalty that hockey no longer feels foreign to Florida,” writes Keating.