The Tampa Bay Lightning and Hillsborough County are narrowing in on a deal that would keep the hockey team here until at least 2037. The two sides hope to have an agreement in place by January, according to county officials. Under discussion is a proposal for the Lightning to exercise two five-year options to extend the current lease, scheduled to expire in 2027. In exchange, Hillsborough County will commit $61 million over the next two decades to maintenance and upgrades of Amalie Arena, home of the Lightning and 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. "We appreciate county leadership for its care and concern about Amalie Arena’s physical condition and its willingness to consider allocation of the necessary resources to keep it viable for the future," Lightning spokesman Bill Wickett said. If the Lightning bolts 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 $25.9 million 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. If approved by county commissioners, it would be the second time in three years that Hillsborough will pump money into the arena. In 2015, Hillsborough commissioners voted unanimously to split a $25 million upgrade with Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, also using hotel taxes. That renovation reconstructed the club level, added concession stands, expanded an exterior deck, added two club-level lofts and rebuilt the restrooms. In return, Vinik vowed to keep the team in Tampa through 2021.
Hold on to your Bolts: Lightning in talks to stay in Tampa through 2037
Tampa Bay Times | Dec 6