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Jeff Vinik branching out into online sports, entertainment and lifestyle community publishing

By Richard Danielson | Times Staff
Published: March 6, 2018 Updated: March 6, 2018 at 03:24 PM
Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, right, and Steve Griggs, now the Lightning's CEO, watch training camp in 2010. Griggs now leads a new company, The Identity Tampa Bay, which is launching an online publishing arm to be focused on local sports, entertainment and lifestyle coverage. Tampa Tribune photo by SCOTT ISKOWITZ (2010)

TAMPA — Add a new category to Jeff Vinik’s ballooning portfolio of business interests: online community publishing and video distribution.

Tampa Bay Entertainment Properties, a Vinik company that manages the University of South Florida Sun Dome, announced Tuesday that it is creating, which is meant to "act as a sports and lifestyle hub for all things Tampa Bay."

"While surveying the digital landscape of the Tampa Bay region, we believed the market lacked a hub for sports and lifestyle content," Tampa Bay Entertainment Properties chief executive officer (and CEO of the Lighting) Steve Griggs said in announcing the venture. "It is our goal for The Identity Tampa Bay to fill that void."

The initial launch will include an emailed newsletter but is expected to grow into a digital network with multi-platform video distribution through streaming appliances like Apple TV and Roku. The full launch, with short videos and live event coverage, is months away. The network will sell advertising and will not have a subscriber pay wall.

While sports-centric, the web site also will include written and video content on local entertainment and lifestyle topics from around the region. The exact mix of coverage is still to be determined, but it is expected to go beyond Vinik’s holdings to include coverage of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tampa Bay Rays, as well as, possibly, prep sports.

"This is going to be ever-growing and organic," Tampa Bay Entertainment Properties executive vice president Bill Abercrombie said. The coverage area is likely to include Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Manatee, Sarasota and Polk counties.

Formed in 2017, Tampa Bay Entertainment Properties specializes in partnership sales, consulting, marketing and operations in the sports and entertainment. The company last year signed a 10-year exclusive multimedia partnership with USF that includes coverage of Bulls’ athletics and operation of the Sun Dome.

Since buying the Tampa Bay Lightning in March 2010 and moving to Tampa, Vinik, a former mutual fund and hedge fund manager, Vinik, 58, has branched into:

• Real estate investment and development through Water Street Tampa, a $3 billion mixed-use project he is planning in partnership with Cascade Investment, the personal wealth fund created by billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

• Concerts and entertainment at Amalie Arena through Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment.

• Arena football, with the Tampa Bay Storm, which in December announced that it was going on hiatus for the 2018 season.

• Investments in gamma radiation protection technology for first responders and astronauts, an innovative migraine headache treatment, and the startup accelerator DreamIt and an innovation hub that Vinik plans at Channelside Bay Plaza.

• Charitable contributions through the Vinik Family Foundation and support for the Museum of Science and Industry, the Bryan Glazer Family Jewish Community Center, the USF Muma College of Business, which created the USF Vinik Sport and Entertainment Management Program after Vinik and his wife Penny contributed more than $5 million and the USF medical school , through the donation of an acre at Water Street Tampa for a new medical school building.

• A loan to the Tampa Bay Times through FBN Partners, a group of local investors who loaned the newspaper $12 million last year.

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Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times