LAKEWOOD RANCH -- In what Rex Jensen, Schroeder-Manatee CEO, calls "an unusual and out-of-the box relationship," Tampa Bay Lightning officials announced Friday that the organization is teaming up with Lakewood Ranch in a multi-year real estate development deal.
"Why team up with a sports franchise?" Jensen asked. "We're both about business. We're both about people. We're both about marketing to people. And both businesses in the end are about performance. Both businesses encounter wins and losses. Both businesses, at the end of the season, hope they're more about wins."
The Lakewood Ranch community already has a strong sports presence with its Premier Sports Campus and with the Sarasota Polo Club at Lakewood Ranch.
"As we increase our focus on becoming a regional sports and entertainment franchise, we are pleased to announce that Lakewood Ranch is joining our family," said Tod Leiweke, chief executive officer of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Tampa Bay Times Forum. "About 1.3 million people will come through our facility this year. We hosted Bruce Springsteen, Lady Gaga, Pink and Fleetwood Mac.
"All of these people coming through our facility are potential homebuyers here, potential supporters of business and enterprise in this part of the world. We have diverse events," he added. "We have visiting fans. Tonight we play the Ottawa Senators in a sold-out building and we will have hundreds of people visiting here who are predisposed not just to come to the game of hockey, but to this beau
The partnership has the support of numerous elected officials who attended the press conference, including Manatee County Commissioner Larry Bustle.
"I think it's a fantastic partnership," Bustle said. "I'm pleased with the idea to put it together and I think it will be a benefit to both the Lightning and the area. It's a very productive partnership. It's centered here, obviously. The whole region will benefit."
Lightning vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman was also part of the event Friday.
A hockey legend in his competitive career with three Stanley Cups and an Olympic gold medal, Yzerman told how he had made many trips along Interstate 75 assuming Lakewood Ranch was an equestrian range. But this past fall when the team wasn't playing, he had the opportunity to visit the community and tour the amenities it offered.
"It was spectacular for us, so Tod (Leiweke) and I thought it would be a great opportunity for us to partner with Lakewood Ranch," Yzerman said. "In the 20 years I've been with the team, one of the challenges for us is that this is still a new hockey market. We have to get adults to follow it and kids to play the game. This is only 45 minutes away. It's an easy drive.
"This is a chance to reach out to new community for us," the sportsman said. "I don't think you'll find a better spectator sport to watch live."