The University of South Florida’s quick-moving plans for an on-campus stadium picked up more momentum Wednesday with the announcement of a $5 million donation from philanthropists Jeff and Penny Vinik.
Jeff Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning and co-developer of Water Street in downtown Tampa, said in a news release that the stadium will be “a game-changer” for all of Tampa Bay. He credited long-time USF benefactors Frank and Carol Morsani, who last month jumpstarted fundraising for the stadium with a $5 million donation and a call for others to join in.
The facility is expected to cost at least $200 million.
“I have been following the stadium developments, including the site selection, with great interest,” Jeff Vinik said. “The gift from the Morsanis inspired Penny’s and my investment, and the best part is this chapter of the story is just beginning. The Bolts enjoy the best fan and community support in the NHL, and in just a few short years, the Bulls will experience that in a completely new way in their campus home.”
The stadium, announced last fall by USF board of trustees chairperson Will Weatherford, has been on a fast-moving path with Weatherford pushing for an opening date as early as 2026. Its progress has been tied to USF president Rhea Law’s performance goals, and last month a site was announced: Sycamore Fields, the location currently used for intramural sports on the east side of campus.
“We are thrilled that Jeff and Penny have stepped up so generously to support our Bulls and the on-campus stadium,” the Morsanis said in a USF news release. “We said just last month that we were looking forward to others joining us in making this project a reality, and now we can’t wait to see who the Viniks’ gift will inspire next.”
In the release, Law said the Viniks’ donation and stadium will help the surrounding university community.
“Their vision and investment have helped transform downtown Tampa, the Tampa Bay Lightning organization and our entire region, including numerous programs at USF,” she said. “We thank Jeff and Penny for their continued support of the university.”