Monday, April 23, 2018
Business

Lightning approached about Channelside, but no deal struck

TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has been approached and is considering taking a stake in the long-troubled Channelside entertainment complex that lies adjacent to the Lightning's home ice, the Tampa Bay Times Forum, Lightning officials confirmed Friday.

However, they said, rumors swirling Friday that a deal has been struck go too far.

"We do have a keen interest with everything that goes on in our neighborhood, and we'd like to see Channelside be successful," Lightning spokesman Bill Wickett said. "To say today that we are taking on a business interest is not correct."

Lightning chief executive officer Tod Leiweke noted that a number of potential buyers are looking "and they think we would be a good marketing partner" given the team's proximity to Channelside.

One recurring rumor is that a dual sports deal could occur, whereby Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg would buy the New York Mets and sell the Rays to Vinik, who would then relocate the Rays from St. Petersburg to his newly acquired Channelside territory.

It's chatter the Lightning hopes to squelch.

"Our organization enjoys a strong friendship with the Tampa Bay Rays and we look forward to deepening those bonds," Wickett said. "We wish them continued success on and off the field, but any speculation that we are interested in anything more is unfounded and untrue."

Some community leaders have advocated Vinik as a buyer to rejuvenate Channelside given his reputation as a strong civic backer during his tenure as Lightning owner. Vinik bankrolled about $40 million in recent renovations at the Forum and has been a major donor to area charities.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said he would welcome any additional involvement in downtown by Vinik, whom he called the kind of professional sports owner that Tampa loves to see.

"If Mr. Vinik was interested, I would love to see that transaction take place," Buckhorn said Friday. "It would make sense for the Lightning. It would make sense for Channelside."

Buckhorn said he has not talked to Vinik or anyone in the Lightning organization about the idea.

One change that Buckhorn suggests for any new Channelside owner is to take what is a "poorly designed complex" and orient it more to the waterfront.

"You blow out that back wall," Buckhorn said, and a new owner could not only open up views to the water, but could make Riverwalk rise over the port's operations and let Channelside open on the Riverwalk.

Any deal would involve the Tampa Port Authority, which owns the land under Channelside. Port spokesman Andy Fobes declined to speculate about a local buyer. Chuck Taylor, the court-appointed receiver managing Channelside, also said he had been told nothing about a sale of the complex involving Vinik.

The downtown complex has been in limbo for years, struggling to boost its occupancy during the recession.

New York real estate firm Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. bought it in 2006, but later failed to make payments on its $27 million bank loan. That prompted the bank that owned the property, Anglo Irish Bank of Dublin, to foreclose in 2010.

Private equity giant Lone Star Funds of Texas subsequently negotiated with Anglo Irish to buy a package of nonperforming and subperforming loans, including the Channelside note. Fobes said the port is still awaiting confirmation that the deal with Lone Star has been finalized.

Times reporters Rick Danielson and Damian Cristodero contributed to this story.

Comments
Apartments planned for shuttered stores at Pasco’s Gulf View Square mall

Apartments planned for shuttered stores at Pasco’s Gulf View Square mall

PORT RICHEY — The new owner of two shuttered department stores at Gulf View Square mall wants to demolish the former retail outlets and replace them with nearly 400 apartments.The complex, called Gables at Gulf View, would be on the west side of the ...
Published: 04/23/18
Some people are paying for cuddles. And it’s not what you might think.

Some people are paying for cuddles. And it’s not what you might think.

When Samantha Hess’s marriage ended five years ago, she felt she was lacking a basic human need: Physical touch. As a woman in her late 20s living in Portland, Oregon, she found plenty of men interested in dating, but sexual contact was not what she ...
Published: 04/21/18
Judge: Foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa violated numerous rules of conduct

Judge: Foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa violated numerous rules of conduct

Tampa Bay foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa has violated numerous rules of professional conduct and caused two clients to nearly lose their homes because he failed to tell them about settlement offers from their banks. Those were among the prelim...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Times staffThe greater Brandon area will celebrate the grand opening of its second Goodwill store beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday (April 28) at 1407 U.S. 301. The new store will add another 12,000 square feet to the complex, which includes a 200,000-...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Regulators allow major solar company to lease home equipment

Regulators allow major solar company to lease home equipment

State regulators Friday determined that one of the country’s largest residential solar companies, San Francisco-based Sunrun, is allowed to lease solar energy equipment for homes in Florida. The decision, solar energy advocates say, could open the do...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida unemployment at 3.9 percent for sixth straight month

Florida unemployment at 3.9 percent for sixth straight month

For the sixth month running, Florida’s unemployment rate held at a nearly 11-year low of 3.9 percent in March as steady job gains continued. While many factors kept Florida’s economy chugging along, three industries stand out for leading year-over-ye...
Published: 04/20/18
Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of ‘online terrorism’

Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of ‘online terrorism’

ST. PETERSBURG --- Stretched across the front of Tim and Hyun Kims’ two-year-old house is a big banner with the name of a developer and the words: "I have to fix my new house."Some of what needs fixing is instantly apparent. The front steps are too ...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida has hit a milestone of sorts as it slowly moves toward wider availability of medical marijuana.The number of patients in the state who are registered to use the substance has surpassed 100,000 for the first time, according to Florida Departme...
Published: 04/20/18
Q&A: Walmart leader chats about Florida stores, and the chain’s latest retail strategy

Q&A: Walmart leader chats about Florida stores, and the chain’s latest retail strategy

The Tampa Bay Times recently sat down with Walmart director of corporate communications Phillip Keene to chat about the retail giant’s latest retail strategies and how the company is winning over customers in a competitive market.Already, two of the ...
Published: 04/20/18
SunTrust warns 1.5 million clients of potential data breach

SunTrust warns 1.5 million clients of potential data breach

Associated PressNEW YORK — SunTrust Banks Inc. says accounts for 1.5 million clients could be compromised following a potential data breach. The Atlanta bank says that it became aware of the potential theft by a former employee and that the investiga...
Published: 04/20/18