The developers of Lakewood Ranch are hoping a new partnership with the Tampa Bay Lightning will draw hockey fans from all over the country to live and work in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
To prove they mean business, NHL Hall of Famer and Lightning General Manager and Vice President Steve Yzerman was brought in for a news conference Friday at Lakewood Ranch Golf & Country Club to announce details of the deal, which officials say will expand the Lakewood Ranch brand name and grow its market.
"This really will put us on the national and international map for real estate," said Rex Jensen, president of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, the community's developer.
The hope is that by promoting Lakewood Ranch at Lightning home games and on TV broadcasts, fans from the bay area and those visiting or watching from northern climates will consider relocating here.
Components of the multi-year agreement include:
- An ad displaying the Lakewood Ranch name and logo on the boards of the ice rink at the Tampa Bay Times Forum
- A new "Lakewood Ranch Client Services Lounge" debuting Saturday at the Forum
- An in-game feature celebrating community heroes and sponsored by Lakewood Ranch
- Two Lakewood Ranch-sponsored home games each season
- A Lightning and NHL alumni golf tournament to be held in Lakewood Ranch in the next two years to benefit a local charity
"We can get our brand more exposure in some of the target markets for both of our organizations, both up in the Northeast, Midwest and in Canada," said Todd Pokrywa, VP of planning for Schroeder-Manatee Ranch.
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For Yzerman and the Lightning, the deal is also about exposing hockey to new fans in a non-traditional market.
"This is an exciting opportunity for us getting a little outside of the Tampa Bay area and trying to reach out to new fans, let them know this is who we are, this is our team and it's a great sport to follow," the former Detroit Red Wings star said.
Yzerman first toured the Lakewood Ranch area during the NHL's work stoppage in the fall and said it should serve for a great partnership.
"With everything you have to offer it really is spectacular, with the schools, the sporting facilities, not only golf, all the amenities you have to offer, it really is a unique community and one that I think in partnership with the Lightning you'll really be able to promote, not only in Florida but throughout North America."
As part of the deal, Jensen will also serve on a board that selects winners in the team's Community Heroes program, which has awarded $10 million in the past five years to area community advocates.
Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore was an honoree last season for her work with the county's no-kill animal shelter efforts and was awarded $50,000 for the cause.
"When Mr. Jeff Vinik bought the team three years ago, it became a real objective for us to not just be a team of just Tampa, but a team truly of the region," Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke said. "We're here today to say that Lakewood Ranch, Manatee County, Sarasota County is a fundamental part of our home, and we're here not just to build relationships, we're also here to give back."
See Related: Should The Lakewood Ranch Hockey Arena Be Revived?