Game Changer: How Billionaire Jeff Vinik is Helping to Remake Tampa

Before he decamped to Tampa to run a sports team, Jeff Vinik made billions for investors. Now he’s spending billions remaking his adopted hometown.
Jeff Vinik

From the 25th floor of the SunTrust building in downtown Tampa, Jeff Vinik scans the city streets below and says he sees “tremendous potential.” That’s a big accolade coming from a man who previously lived in Boston and New York and who made investors billions of dollars by finding value. Vinik says the Florida city is poised for such growth that most people won’t even recognize it in 10 years.

“Sitting in this office, looking out that window, you’re going to see another 30 or 40 high-rises,” he says. “It is going to be bustling…. We’ve got all the potential in the world down here.”

Since buying the Tampa Bay Lightning, the city’s professional hockey team, in 2010 (and its arena football team, the Tampa Bay Storm, a year later), the former mutual fund manager has invested hundreds of millions of his own dollars in the region. In recent years, he moved beyond the ice to become one of the area’s biggest players and philanthropists. Vinik’s latest endeavor, a $3 billion live-work-play development, is one of the largest of its kind in the state and is positioned to transform the urban core of one of the country’s fastest-growing cities.

At 57, Vinik is living proof that executives can reinvent themselves at any age. Whether as a fund manager, sports team owner or developer, Vinik says he has always been driven by
passion and intellectual curiosity. And while his latest endeavors may just be a form of fun, they’re having a tremendous impact.

“you’re going to see another 30 or 40 high-rises. It is going to be bustling…. We’ve got all the potential in the world down here.”

Building a City from the Ground Up
Just outside of Amalie Arena, where the Lightning play, Vinik is spearheading one of the biggest new urban developments in Florida. Not long after buying the Lightning, Vinik started
scooping up prime real estate near the arena. In 2014, he acquired the 719-room Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina and the Channelside Bay Plaza entertainment complex.

The project is being developed by Strategic Property Partners, a partnership between Vinik and Cascade Investment, a holding and investment company controlled by Bill Gates, and currently encompasses 53 acres of land along the Tampa Bay waterfront in and around the Channelside District.

Within five to 10 years, SPP is projecting 9 million square feet of development with 5,000 new residences, 650 hotel rooms and 2.6 million square feet of office space. Already infrastructure and street work is under way in preparation for a massive revitalization of the southern end of downtown Tampa. Phase 1 is scheduled to break ground in late 2018.

Vinik’s vision is a live-work-play development that will include residences, hotels, a medical school, an entertainment complex, retail space and, hopefully, a major corporate headquarters. In 2015, he added to his team city planner and national new-urbanism proponent Jeff Speck, who says that walkable cities and more carefully designed urban areas can prove to be not only more sustainable but also more economically successful.

Vinik’s development is also aiming to achieve WELL Certification from the International Well Building Institute, which would make it the first community in the world to receive the designation, which indicates that work and living environments address seven areas thought to significantly impact health and wellness: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.


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