TAMPA — Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment, which acquired the Lightning hockey team last year, announced Thursday the purchase of the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
"Since 1999 (the Lightning) have been involved with the Storm but, really, a little bit at an arm's length," said Tod Leiweke, CEO of Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment. "When (TBSE chairman) Jeff Vinik talked about wanting to provide the fans and this community great experiences in this building (St. Pete Times Forum), acquiring (the Storm) made total sense."
Vinik and Leiweke bring considerable sports experience to the Storm. In addition to their interests with the Lightning, Vinik is a minority owner in the Boston Red Sox, while Leiweke has served as CEO for the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers and Major League Soccer's Seattle Sounders.
AFL commissioner Jerry Kurz said the new ownership "will raise the bar" for the Storm.
"What Tod Leiweke has done in Seattle, with the football team, basketball team and soccer team, has been visionary," he said. "This truly is a red-letter day. A landmark day."
Storm coach Tim Marcum said partnering with the Lightning is a bump in status for the five-time AFL champs.
"To have the support of the Lightning is just phenomenal," he said. "We're no longer the stepchild, we're the little brother. We're part of the family."
The Storm opens training camp Feb. 19 and kicks off the season March 11 at New Orleans.