Friday, June 22, 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
Tampa Bay workforce development initiative looks to Houston for lessons

Tampa Bay workforce development initiative looks to Houston for lessons

The biggest hospitals in Houston had a problem.To earn a prized institutional certification, they needed more nurses with bachelor of science degrees in nursing.But local colleges were more focused on turning out nurses with two-year degrees who, to ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Health care IT company CareSync shuts down, laying off 292

Health care IT company CareSync shuts down, laying off 292

TAMPA — The days ahead were supposed to be bright.For weeks, the future of health care tech company CareSync had been thrown into question as founder and CEO and founder Travis Bond unexpectedly departed, kicking off multiple rounds of layoffs. But t...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Coal and gas hold onto their share of electricity production, despite massive push for renewables

Coal and gas hold onto their share of electricity production, despite massive push for renewables

Here’s an intriguing set of facts: Coal produces the same percentage of the world’s electricity as 20 years ago. Oil and gas remain about level, too.Same for nonfossil fuel sources. In other words, the massive push towards renewables over the past co...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Brink: Why have Florida’s working-age men left the labor market in droves

Brink: Why have Florida’s working-age men left the labor market in droves

A cancer lurks within Florida’s otherwise rosy job numbers, one that’s been called a quiet catastrophe and an intractable time bomb.Too many men between the ages of 25 and 54 have stopped working.Economists call those the prime-age years. Incomes gen...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Pride divided no more: St. Pete Pride comes back together

Pride divided no more: St. Pete Pride comes back together

ST. PETERSBURG — The 16th annual St. Pete Pride Parade is getting ready to march along the downtown waterfront the second straight year. But many hope to move past the division caused last year when the parade was uprooted from its original hom...
Updated: 9 hours ago
For sale: A Tampa Bay area elementary school where you can eat tacos and buy wine

For sale: A Tampa Bay area elementary school where you can eat tacos and buy wine

ST. PETERSBURG — For sale: a 104-year-old elementary school with restaurant and wine shop. It even has a title company where you can close the deal.Less than a year after completing a major renovation of the historic North Ward school, developer Jona...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Domain Homes: Buyers love them, some others don’t

Domain Homes: Buyers love them, some others don’t

TAMPA — When the 2008 financial crash brought down the nation’s housing market, hundreds of home builders went out of business. Among them was Sharon McSwain Homes in Atlanta, forced to liquidate in 2009.But just as developers like to develop, builde...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Armature Works developers sue Ulele and city of Tampa over use of nearby building

Armature Works developers sue Ulele and city of Tampa over use of nearby building

TAMPA — Two of the city’s hottest developers — the companies behind Ulele and the Armature Works — are heading to court over control of an old city building that sits between the hit eateries. Both want to redevelop the city&...
Published: 06/21/18
Orlando airport first to scan faces of U.S. citizens on international flights

Orlando airport first to scan faces of U.S. citizens on international flights

Associated PressFlorida’s busiest airport is becoming the first in the nation to require a face scan of passengers on all arriving and departing international flights, including U.S. citizens, according to officials there. The expected announcement T...
Published: 06/21/18
Saboteur or whistleblower? Battle between Elon Musk and former Tesla employee turns ugly, exposing internal rancor

Saboteur or whistleblower? Battle between Elon Musk and former Tesla employee turns ugly, exposing internal rancor

Hours after Tesla had sued its former employee on charges he had stolen company secrets, and days after chief Elon Musk had called him a saboteur, the Silicon Valley automaker made a startling claim. The company had received a call from a friend of t...
Published: 06/21/18