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Tampa Bay Lightning owner to donate
$10 million to local charities

From left, Tod Leiweke, Lightning and St. Pete Times Forum CEO, speaks as Jeff Vinik, Lightning owner, and his wife, Penny Vinik, listen at a news conference at Metropolitan Ministries on Tuesday when the Viniks announced their donation of more than $10 million during the next five years.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

From left, Tod Leiweke, Lightning and St. Pete Times Forum CEO, speaks as Jeff Vinik, Lightning owner, and his wife, Penny Vinik, listen at a news conference at Metropolitan Ministries on Tuesday when the Viniks announced their donation of more than $10 million during the next five years.

TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and his wife, Penny, said Tuesday they will donate $10 million over five years to local charities.

The money will include several larger donations to established charities and dozens of smaller gifts that honor individual "heroes" who have given back to the community.

"Owning a team allows Penny and I the visibility to give back," Vinik said at a news conference at Metropolitan Ministries with representatives from more than 70 Tampa Bay area nonprofits. "It allows us to participate actively in the community and inspire others, hopefully, to do the same."

The announcement is one of several this week by Vinik, who bought the team in March and moved his family to Tampa from Boston. On Monday, the team unveiled a new logo and updated blue-and-white uniforms and said season ticket holders would get a special new jersey that gives them discounts on food and merchandise.

Today, the team is expected to detail upgrades to the St. Pete Times Forum, the county-owned complex built for the Lightning in 1996. Those changes include new seating, an upper-level concession area and a revamped color scheme.

The Viniks said the $10 million donation from their family foundation will be broken down into several smaller gifts:

• Four $200,000 grants each year to larger, established charities, for a total of $4 million.

• Twenty-five $50,000 awards each year, totaling of $6.25 million. Those awards will honor people who have given back to the Tampa Bay area. Each person will be honored at a Lightning home game, and grants will go to a charity of the person's choice.

"Jeff's given us something special," said Lightning chief executive Tod Leiweke. "He's given us the resources to have a big dream. Our dream is to take our games and make them a celebration of all that is great about this community."

The first awards will be given at the start of the next hockey season. Individual winners will be selected by a committee appointed by the Lightning Foundation that includes season ticket holders. The foundation is still developing an application process.

The sheer size of the gift won plaudits from several people in the nonprofit community.

"I've been doing this business of community service for 34 years, and I think this is the proudest moment I've experienced or witnessed," said Museum of Science and Industry president Wit Ostrenko.

"Welcome to Tampa," he told the Viniks.

Morris Hintzman, chief executive of Metropolitan Ministries, called the gifts "seed money" that he said could attract $100 million to the bay area through matching grants.

"What a way to come in and say we're here to partner with you," he said. It's a new model of how to look at building a community.

In addition to the monetary gifts, Lightning employees will donate 4,000 hours of community service each year.

"We're not just going to write checks," said Leiweke, a minority owner of the team. "We're going to make it a mandate for our staff to be involved."

Vinik made his fortune as a hedge fund manager and lived in Boston for 20 years. He said his parents instilled in him a belief that giving back to the community is important. Penny Vinik was on the board of Boston's Museum of Fine Arts and also donated to the city's private Meadowbrook School.

The couple's earlier philanthropy, she said, "was on a quieter, behind-the-scenes kind of scale. But when you own a sports team, that goes out the window."

Lee Logan can be reached at (813) 226-3383 or llogan@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Lightning owner to donate
$10 million to local charities 02/01/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 2, 2011 1:15am]
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