Thursday, April 26, 2018
Business

Lightning owner Jeff Vinik finally opens up (a little bit) about future plans: soon

TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is adept at dodging questions about his plans for redeveloping the Channel District downtown. But on Wednesday he said this much:

Soon.

When asked how many years it would be before construction starts on his properties around the former Tampa Bay Times Forum, the Lightning owner said this:

"A better question is how many days or months until we announce something," he said. "We are deliberate but we still want to move fast."

When Vinik does finally move, he has the means and the land to transform downtown's Channel District.

He recently added the Channelside Bay Plaza retail complex to his downtown portfolio. He also owns 24 empty acres and the lease to the Amalie Arena (which was renamed Wednesday when Amalie Oil Co. took over the naming rights to the former Tampa Bay Times Forum).

In May, Vinik and his partners filed plans with the city to build a 400-room hotel on a parking lot west of the arena. Last month they filed plans to build a 202,000-square-foot office tower north of the arena. But the office project is up in the air after a potential tenant, Syniverse, lost its CEO and denied it plans to move downtown.

The broad sketch of Vinik's plans are known: to build a walkable entertainment district from the Tampa Convention Center to the Florida Aquarium. His lieutenants have said he could build residential, restaurant and retail space around the arena to support his hockey team.

But the specific pieces, like the proposed office building, are a mystery. He would not comment on that project, but said offices will be part of his plan.

"I assure you that part of our plan brings a lot of people down to this area," he said, "living here, working here, playing here, eating here, shopping here. We want a lot of vibrant energy down here."

Vinik dodged two more questions Wednesday: He wouldn't say whether he wants the old ConAgra Foods Inc. flour mill, which sits north of his properties, to be moved. He also wouldn't comment on the Tampa Bay Rays stadium situation or the prospects for a Tampa baseball stadium.

"I'm not going anywhere near baseball," he said.

Contact Jamal Thalji at [email protected] or (813) 226-3404. Follow @jthalji.

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