LAKEWOOD RANCH — Schroeder-Manatee Ranch President and CEO Rex Jensen leans forward at the head of a conference room table Friday afternoon, and with one finger, slides a printout of the weather across the table.
Only Florida’s outline is filled with the color red — an indicator of temperatures above 65 degrees. The Weather Channel’s forecast for Dec. 8, 2013, shows the bulk of Florida with temperatures of 80 degrees or higher, compared with 22 degrees in Michigan and sub-zero temperatures in several Midwestern states.
On Jan. 25, 2013, Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, Lakewood Ranch’s developer, announced a new partnership with the Tampa Bay Lightning to become the hockey team’s exclusive residential real estate development partner. It plans to continue the deal for three more years, although that agreement is not yet in writing.
“This is why,” Jensen says, nodding toward the map. “It’s an important why. Our main out-of-state customers come primarily from the Northeast, followed by the Midwest.
“(We want to) catch them when they’re just coming in from shoveling snow — when they are flat-out cold,” he says. “It’s good marketing to a geography that correlates with our most significant markets.”
The partnership goes well beyond name recognition on a dasher board behind the goal net or the “Here’s to You, Tampa Bay,” halftime feature, sponsored by SMR-subsidiary LWR Communities, that spotlights extraordinary things happening in the Tampa Bay region.
As part of the deal, SMR executives travel with the Lightning to away games and use the opportunity to meet with builders, investors, residential and commercial developers and other industry professionals.
A trip to Canada with the Lightning in March ultimately helped SMR secure a deal for Mattamy Homes, Canada’s largest homebuilder, to purchase 235 acres in Lakewood Ranch for $17.2 million in December.
SMR had talked with Mattamy executives about five years ago, but SMR’s meeting with Mattamy late last year proved to Mattamy that Lakewood Ranch would be a good match for its product line and demographics.
“We did a very quick deal,” Jensen said. “Now, we have a bit of an international market.”
Mattamy also markets heavily in the hockey arena, because hockey in Canada reaches a viewership of more than 1 million per game.
“It’s crazy,” Jensen said. “You can’t reach all those people by (having them) read brochures. They see our (name when they watch hockey games). We think this integrates our marketing. We are penetrating Canada better.”
Todd Pokrywa, vice president of planning for SMR, said last year, the Tampa Bay region accounted for 17% of Florida real estate purchases at the Bank of Montreal. Statewide, Canadians make up 31% of international home purchases, which account for 19% of home sales in Florida.
Jensen said only about 2% of Lakewood Ranch homebuyers are Canadian. But, to date, the Ranch has had few properties that cater to international buyers or snowbirds — low maintenance and lock-and-leave-style homes. Mattamy’s entrance into the Lakewood Ranch construction scene will cater largely to those demographics by offering those product types.
“It’s the biggest international segment we could go for,” Jensen said of Canadians. “Now, we’ve got something to sell them.”
Jensen and Pokrywa left Monday for Canada to meet with representatives of Enterprise Florida, a company that works with developers and investors seeking to expand their footprint in Florida.
“The mere fact we’re traveling with the Lightning opens the door for us,” Jensen said, calling the sport the “fabric of Canadian living.”
Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke said the deal — although abstract on the surface — could not be more logical, when one considers the number of fans the Lightning sees from SMR’s target markets. Many hockey fans even coordinate their vacations with seeing their favorite team play out-of-territory, Leiweke said.
The partnership helps the Lightning become the regional team its leaders envision — not just the team of the Tampa Bay area. And, the Lightning has worked to customize partnership benefits to Lakewood Ranch, helping bolster business connections whenever possible.
“Our objective is to be the most efficient and positive relationship they have,” Leiweke said. “It’s a complete, comprehensive relationship (not just tickets to games). We’re really in a partnership with them. They borrow equity from us, but we borrow equity from them. They are one of the most dynamic developments in this state. We’re proud to tell their story.”
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