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The Biz: Jeff Lyash's Rays role part legacy, part reality

Lyash's baseball role part legacy, part reality

We're not sure if Progress Energy Florida chief Jeff Lyash, above, can quote the starting lineup of the much improved Tampa Bay Rays, but it is no fluke that he was named last week as the head of a group of community, city and county leaders whose charge is to search for a new site for a Major League Baseball stadium. If this smacks of deja vu, it should. It was Jack Critchfield, left —"Dr. Jack," as he preferred to be called for his doctorate in education — who as a baseball fanatic and chairman of St. Petersburg's Florida Progress Corp. was a key leader in wooing a baseball franchise to Tampa Bay in the mid 1990s. The power company even bought a modest stake in the team, which was later divested. "When I was a kid, I dreamed of playing Major League Baseball," Critchfield, then 65, told the St. Petersburg Times in 1998. Now Critchfield is a TV star, of sorts, on most Rays televised home games since he can be seen often in his seat in the front row directly behind home plate. Last week's choice of Lyash to head the new search committee is part legacy and part economic reality. Progress Energy Florida is still one Big Kahuna in St. Petersburg and the bay area.

Tough time for Banker of Year

It's tough for a banker to feel like celebrating these days, even one just named Florida's Banker of the Year. "Everybody's struggling," said Kenneth Cherven, who was recognized this month by the Florida Bankers Association. "You don't feel like 'banker of the year' in these kind of times. You feel like you ought to be doing a lot more."

Cherven, CEO of First Community Bank Corp. of America in Pinellas Park, said he was shocked to receive the honor, although his friends and employees had been in on the secret for months. The association recognized him for years of contributions to the industry, including launching a four-year banking degree at St. Petersburg College and serving as national president of the American Institute of Banking.

Yes, Lightning brass live here

Amid the hoopla of new ownership of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the fact that two members of the ownership team are prominent area businessmen got little attention. Craig Sher of the Sembler real estate development group and Kane's Furniture chief Irwin Novack, both of St. Petersburg, are local representatives in an otherwise geographically distant group of owners.

Cautionary tale for cities

Mayor Pam Iorio gets top billing in a recent Business Week story that is, alas, a cautionary tale for cities trying to revitalize their downtowns during the troubled economy. Tampa's 2003 initiative aimed for 11,000 condos, a 19-story office building and a downtown population goal of growing from 2,000 to 20,000. Then came the economic brakes. "Now only about 3,500 of the planned condo units have either been built or are under construction... and many remain vacant."

Times Staff

The Biz: Jeff Lyash's Rays role part legacy, part reality 06/28/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 30, 2008 6:12pm]

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