Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Finals
Most fans can imagine the thrill of victory when a NHL team hoists Lord Stanley’s Cup in the air after a long and grueling postseason journey. However, the road to the shiny trophy also has a lesser-known benefit for teams and it has to do with their bottom line. Simply making it to the playoffs can have a huge financial impact on a team. Extra home games mean extra tickets, extra merchandise, and a general rejuvenation of the team brand.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or have absolutely no desire to keep up with professional sports, you know the Tampa Bay Lightning are currently battling the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup final. The team’s success this season has undoubtedly pleased their fans, as well as padded the wallet of owner Jeff Vinik. In fact, the longest postseason run since Vinik took over in 2010 has sparked sales of season tickets, suites, and sponsorships — a boost in revenue that will be felt for years to come. The Lightning have not won the Stanley Cup since 2004, so this year’s success has reignited a brand that has struggled in recent years. Not surprisingly, a stronger brand means a more popular brand. When more people are invested in the team and feel an emotional connection to it, financial benefits are never far behind.
Financial Impact of the NHL Finals
It’s hard to say exactly how much the Tampa Bay Lightning will make over the course of their season or whether their long playoff run will put them in the black for only the second time in the team’s 23-year history. In general, it’s hard to discern how much money a professional sports franchise makes or loses. The teams are often privately held by owners who are not interested in opening up their finances for public scrutiny. Although Lightning president Steve Griggs would not say whether the team is projected to go into the black this season or next, he does acknowledge this year’s playoff run has certainly put that goal within reach.
For a team who has reportedly lost seven to eight figures annually, the opportunity to be in the black is more exciting than ever. Prior to the current season, the only season the Lightning franchise finished in the black was 2003-04. That playoff run included 13 extra home games, resulting in a $3.6 million profit. How do we know how much the team made if owners are notoriously tight-lipped? The team’s former owner, Palace Sports & Entertainment Inc., revealed those details nearly a decade ago when they were seeking tax breaks from the city and county.
Before you start feeling too sorry for the Lightning owners, it’s important to point out just because the team has lost money doesn’t necessarily mean the owners are now forced to pinch their pennies. Why? Whoever owns the Tampa Bay Lightning also has the opportunity to run its home arena, Amalie Arena, ranked in 2014 as the second best venue of its size in the United States based on ticket sales. Ownerships groups have never separated their hockey losses from money generated by concerts and other events held at the arena, so its hard to pinpoint exactly where the financial deficiencies originate.
The Future of the Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2015 postseason has helped alleviate some of the financial woes the team has come to expect in recent years. Team officials said 1,500 new season ticket packages for next season have been purchased during this six-week playoff run — boosting the season ticket base by 15 percent to 12,000 total. Plus, the team has sold 56 of its 69 suites this season and officials expect to sell out all 69 next year.
Although the Stanley Cup games attract a mostly hometown crowd, as opposed to the Super Bowl which draws ten of thousands of visitors to a city, Vinik and the Tampa Bay Lighting have built the momentum to perhaps break even for the first time in a long time. This season’s success also puts the team in a favorable position for next season. Whether Tampa Bay is the last team standing after everything is said and done remains to be seen. However, one thing is for sure — when it comes to the team’s bottom line, the Lighting and its owner have already won.