TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik now officially owns Channelside Bay Plaza.
Last month, Vinik's new company, CBP Development LLC, won control of Channelside when the litigants fighting over the failing downtown mall struck a last-minute court settlement.
But just like any other piece of real estate, there had to be a closing. That was completed Tuesday afternoon.
Vinik now owns Channelside, just like he owns the Lightning, the lease to the Tampa Bay Times Forum and 24 empty acres around the home of his hockey team.
The Lightning owner was already a force in redeveloping downtown Tampa before he acquired Channelside. Now he can incorporate the outdoor mall into his eventual plans for his Channel District holdings.
Vinik's spokesman, Bill Wickett, confirmed that the closing was finished but declined to comment further.
The Lightning owner paid $7.1 million to buy Channelside from its previous owner, the Irish Bank Resolution Corp. The IBRC took over the failed Irish bank that foreclosed on the waterfront property in 2010.
The IBRC was being liquidated under the watch of a bankruptcy judge in Delaware. The judge tried to recoup some of the original $27 million loan that was made for Channelside eight years ago. So as part of the recent settlement, the Tampa Port Authority chipped in $1.4 million to the bank's liquidators.
Vinik had won this summer's auction for Channelside, but the result was challenged by Liberty Channelside LLC, a group of investors who spent months fighting for the plaza in federal court. But Liberty blessed the deal in exchange for an undisclosed settlement from Vinik.
Now that Vinik officially owns the Channelside building, he'll have to negotiate a new lease with the Tampa Port Authority, which owns the land under it and has certain rights to the property. The board voted Tuesday to let Chairman Stephen Swindal take the lead in those negotiations.
Vinik has committed to spending at least $10 million to turn around the dilapidated Channelside, but his final plans will have to be approved by Port Tampa Bay's governing board.
Completion of the closing also meant that Channelside has a new operator: Franklin Street. The Tampa firm's CEO, Andrew Wright, is a part of the team assembled by Vinik to chart a course for his downtown properties.
Vinik's people are still working on figuring out their long-term plans for Channelside, and how it will fit into the massive development the Lightning owner will eventually build in the Channel District.
But in the short term, Franklin Street's job will be to shore up Channelside in time for hockey season. Tampa Bay will open the season at the Times Forum on Oct. 9 against the Florida Panthers.
Contact Jamal Thalji at [email protected] or (813) 226-3404. Follow @jthalji.