TAMPA — The Lightning are the latest professional sports team forced to downsize because of revenue lost due to the coronavirus pandemic, eliminating 30 positions throughout the organization on Monday.
“Rest assured, these decisions were not made lightly,” Lightning and Vinik Sports Group CEO Steve Griggs said. “But with the sports and entertainment industry being impacted like at no other time in modern history, this was a necessary step as we position ourselves for maximum recovery.
"We greatly appreciate everyone’s efforts in the face of these challenging circumstances, and we are sorry to see those affected leave the company.”
The position eliminations are effective immediately. There were no furloughs or pay cuts.
Despite winning the Stanley Cup in September, the Lightning still endured significant losses in 2019-20 and expect to do so again this upcoming season. Because the postseason was played in bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton, the organization received no revenue from the games.
No games or events have been held at Amalie Arena — or the Vinik Sports Group-managed Yuengling Center on USF’s campus — since March 11, and there’s no projected timetable for when the facilities will return to full-capacity norms.
Details on the upcoming NHL season have yet to be announced — they could come within the next 7-10 days — so teams have no idea whether they will be able to host home games or even how many games might be played.
Tampa is a strong candidate to be a host city if the league decides to start the season in hubs, but NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Tampa Bay Times two weeks ago full-capacity arenas was a goal for the beginning of the 2021-22 season.
There are no plans for any further cuts. The only thing that might change that is if the NHL decides not to play this season, something that’s been discussed by some team owners but doesn’t appear likely.
The cuts will eliminate just under 10 percent of the full-time workforce of Vinik Sports Group, which, other than the Lightning, operates Amalie Arena and manages the Yuengling Center for USF.
Every employee impacted will receive a severance package, including COBRA insurance coverage. Every employee who was working full-time on Sept. 28, the day the Lightning won the Cup, will receive a championship ring.
The announcement comes three days after Strategic Property Partners, the developer of Water Street Tampa, announced layoffs and staff restructuring, saying it was reallocating resources toward the leasing, management and operations of buildings nearing completion. Strategic Property Partners is a partnership between Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investment, a fund controlled by Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
Vinik also is a member of FBN Partners, a group of local investors who have loaned $15 million to the Times Publishing Company, which owns the Tampa Bay Times.
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Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.
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