As the blockbuster Lego sculpture exhibit the Art of the Brick enters its final week in Tampa, Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and his wife, Penny, announced Monday that Tampa is keeping a souvenir — a statue of Zeus.
The god of thunder will fit right in with the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena, they said as they showed off the statue, clutching a lightning bolt in his fist and made of 5,150 cobalt-blue Lego bricks. It was part of the exhibit that their family foundation provided for a free summer run in Tampa's Channel District.
"He's going to take us to the Stanley Cup," Jeff Vinik said.
It is no coincidence that Zeus is made in the same blue hue as the Lightning uniforms because world-renowned artist Nathan Sawaya knew he would be donating it to thank the Viniks before the exhibit opened June 23, he said in an email.
"I created a special sculpture in my signature style of a monochromatic human form," Sawaya said. "As a nod to the sports team, I depicted the figure holding a bolt of lightning. I exaggerated the broad shoulders on the figure suggesting they could easily wield that bolt of lightning like a hockey stick."
"He kind of looks like he's wearing a hockey helmet," Penny Vinik said.
The touring exhibition of imaginative Lego creations by Sawaya — from a life-size T. rex skeleton made with more than 80,000 bricks to a recreation of the Mona Lisa — has been drawing huge crowds around the world since 2007. Tampa has been no exception, drawing more than 3,000 visitors per day, especially on the weekends, when lines often reached around the block. The exhibit's total number of visitors is expected to pass 125,000 by the time it wraps up on Labor Day on Monday, Vinik said.
It's the kind of public art experience that Vinik has said he envisions for the tree-lined city between the Channel District waterfront and the central business district his real estate company is planning. Named Water Street, the $3 billion revitalization project is slated to break ground early next year. The building on Whiting Street that has housed the Art of the Brick will be converted into the offices of Strategic Property Partners, the real estate firm backed by Vinik and Cascade Investment for the project.
This is not the first time the Viniks have brought their love of modern art to the public.
Last summer, the family foundation paid to bring a million white balls in a play area called the Beach Tampa for a free run at Amalie Arena. An instant hit, the installation drew more than 100,000 people.
The Zeus statue will be unveiled on Oct. 6 at Amalie Arena when the Lightning face the Florida Panthers for the season opener.
"It really ties in so many elements of Tampa and the team," Penny Vinik said. "He's so creative, Nathan. He's very thoughtful and insightful. All of the quotes that go with each of the pieces are just very emotional actually. He really thinks about the meaning behind each of the pieces."
Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at email@example.com. Follow @SharonKWn.