Lightning Likely Staying In Tampa Through '37; County Would Commit To Arena Upgrades
The Lightning and Hillsborough County (Fla.) are "narrowing in on a deal" that would keep the team there until at least '37, according to a front-page piece by Steve Contorno of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. County officials said that the two sides "hope to have an agreement in place by January." Under discussion is a "proposal for the Lightning to exercise two five-year options to extend the current lease, scheduled to expire" in '27. In exchange, Hillsborough County will commit $61M "over the next two decades to maintenance and upgrades of Amalie Arena," home of the Lightning and the AFL Tampa Bay Storm and one of the area’s "top entertainment and concert venues." The money will "come from the fifth cent of the Tourist Development Tax, a fee assessed on each night’s stay at a hotel or motel." If the Lightning leave "before the lease expires, the team would have to reimburse the county half of its outstanding debt related to the arena." The Lightning also "will have to spend" $25.9M on additional renovations before June 30, 2030. The county owns Amalie Arena, but "under the existing contract Hillsborough is not under any obligation to pay for maintenance or upgrades." That onus "falls on the team, which runs the day-to-day operations." The deal would "need approval from the Tampa Sports Authority, the government agency that leases the facility to the Lightning." Team Owner Jeff Vinik’s commitment to keep the team at Amalie "coincides with the massive downtown redevelopment he is planning around the arena with Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 12/6).