Since coming to the Tampa Bay area, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has been buying up property around the Channelside area. When he purchased the Lightning, the lease included 5 ½ acres of land. Vinik has slowly been absorbing more and more land around the Channelside area, purchasing as much land as he could since 2013 including the last holdout residential homes near the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Channelside Plaza, roughly 240K square feet, has been for sale since April 2011 and has been in bankruptcy court for much of that. Since going for sale, the Plaza has more and more tenants as the legal issues over who will own the area has been in question.
Now Vinik and his advisors have planned to make a move on the Plaza and have already won the bid at auction for the Plaza but now is embattled with the competing company Liberty Channelside LLC who have challenged the legality of the Vinik bid.
While the court hasn’t decided on how whether or not Vinik has won the bid, or if he will have to resubmit his bid under different rules, Vinik owning the Channelside Plaza makes sense for a few reasons.
The most obvious idea to note is that Times Forum is one of the biggest, if not main, attraction for entertainment in downtown Tampa. Having Vinik own and redevelop Channelside would help bring more revenue to a once booming area as the Forum not only houses 42 regular season hockey games and Tampa Bay Storm games but also concerts and events year round. The Forum boasts roughly anywhere from 19k to 21k for their events. In short, that’s a good number of people who can occupy the Channelside/Forum area on any given night.
With that being said, Vinik is not shy about pouring money into his investment, just look at the Forum itself. He spent $32 million of his own money renovating the Forum, including adding an electric organ and the biggest score board in North America. He also added the Bud Light Party deck, where fans and concertgoers can enjoy the nighttime view of downtown Tampa after their event. This was done all with the idea of making it one of the top entertainment arenas in North America.
He also has given to the Bay area as well. Look no further than his Community Hero program that spends roughly $2million ($50K per home game) to charities based on the recipient’s choice. Imagine what he could do for the now defunct Channelside Plaza who has few tenants now.
Vinik also has the capability to bring in sporting events on national scale. Already he has brought in the NCAA Frozen Four for the 2015 calendar year and is looking to have the Lightning host the NHL All Star game and possibly make a run for having the NHL Draft as well.
Although Vinik hasn’t made clear his plans for the area, he submitted tentative plans for the area in his bid to the Tampa Port Authority, there is no doubt that his plans would inject life into a dying carcass of an area. He clearly has the most incentive out of all the buyers or potential buyers and logically it makes sense.
Information from the Tampa Bay Times and TBO.com was used in this report.