Make us your home page

Jamal Thalji, Times Staff Writer

Jamal Thalji

Jamal Thalji has spent 18 years covering crime, courts, sports and now the business beat for the Tampa Bay Times.

He was raised in the Tampa Bay area, attended Osceola High School and is a graduate of the University of South Florida in Tampa. He worked for the Times while he was in college and later interned at the Des Moines Register.

After five years covering criminal and civil court in Pasco County for the Times, in 2008 he became metro police reporter for the city of St. Petersburg.

In June 2012 he joined the Times business staff and now covers Tampa International Airport, the Port of Tampa and Tampa Bay's tourism industry.

Along the way he has also covered NASA, the NFL, the NBA, college football, hurricanes, forest fires, space shuttle launches, criminal trials and lots of high school football.

Phone: (813) 226-3404

Email: thalji@tampabay.com

Twitter: @JThalji

  1. Where others saw Tampa's vacant waterfront, Jeff Vinik saw potential


    TAMPA — In 2010, a Boston hedge fund manager bought a failing hockey franchise, the lease to its arena and some vacant land next to it.

    That's because Jeff Vinik saw something in the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    "Others looked at the team and saw challenge and peril," team CEO Tod Leiweke said. "He looked at it and saw opportunity."

    Then Vinik looked around the waterfront arena — it fronted a barren patchwork of parking lots and broken asphalt — and saw even more potential....

    Jeff Vinik went from buying the Lightning and the Amalie Arena lease to also acquiring Channelside Bay Plaza and the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina. He now controls 40 acres of downtown Tampa that he now plans to transform into a billion-dollar waterfront development.
  2. Slain Tarpon Springs officer remembered as good cop, family man


    TARPON SPRINGS — By day, "Charlie K" was a good dad. By night, he was known as a good cop.

    Tarpon Springs police Officer Charles Kondek worked the midnight shift so that he could watch his 15-year-old daughter Aleena's soccer practices and travel around with her wherever she played.

    Kondek, 45, was a family man, and she was his youngest child. She had just gotten her learner's permit and her father was teaching her how to drive....

    Tarpon Springs Police Department is saddened to announce the loss of Officer Charles Kondek. Ofc. Konek served the City of Tarpon Springs as a sworn law enforcement officer for over 17 years, many of which were on the midnight shift. Originally from New York, he had previously served for over 5 years as a NYPD officer before moving to Florida. 
Ofc. Kondek, who was 45 years of age, responded to a call for service shortly after 2:00 am on 12/21/14. While at the incident location, at 199 Grand Blvd., Ofc. Kondek was killed in the line of duty. TSPD officers and members of the Tarpon Springs Fire Rescue, who were summoned to assist, attended to Ofc. Kondek on-scene. He was transported to Florida Hospital North Pinellas, where he succumbed to his injuries.
The Pinellas County SheriffÕs Office and the Tarpon Springs Police Department will be investigating this tragic event. Additional information will be released at a later time.
  3. Jeff Vinik's toughest task is now attracting corporations to Tampa


    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik unveiled his plan to inject $1 billion of new development into downtown this week. Now the Tampa Bay Lightning owner is the talk of the town.

    Sharing that vision with eager audiences, though, was the easy part.

    The hard part will be finding a Fortune 500 corporation to move its headquarters to Tampa and plant its flag in the middle of Vinik's new development....

    Jeff Vinik plans to build a tower once a corporation commits.
  4. Jeff Vinik's $1 billion plan for downtown Tampa finally revealed


    TAMPA — Roads that don't meet. An incomplete skyline. An empty crater at the heart of the city.

    For decades, downtown has been an unfinished work in progress.

    Jeff Vinik wants to fix that.

    The Tampa Bay Lighting owner on Wednesday rolled out his long-awaited $1 billion "vision plan" to build nearly 3 million square feet of development along the city's waterfront.

    "What we're doing is completing the plan city planners dreamed up long ago," Vinik told an approving throng of VIPs who gathered at his Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina for the glitzy unveiling....

    An artist's rendering shows what the southern end of downtown Tampa will look like once Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's new project is complete, bringing 3 million square feet of new development around Amalie Arena. [Strategic Property Partners LLC]
  5. Vinik to unveil vision for Tampa's Channelside area

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — The big day is finally here: Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is set to reveal his vision for the future of downtown.

    Vinik will hold an 11 a.m. news conference today to unveil his "billion-dollar" vision to transform the 24 barren acres of downtown land he owns into a walkable waterfront entertainment district stretching from the Tampa Convention Center to the Florida Aquarium....

    Jeff Vinik’s plans include living spaces, shops and restaurants.
  6. Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik set to unveil downtown plans Wednesday


    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik will unveil his big, billion-dollar plan for redeveloping much of downtown this week. The Tampa Port Authority will consider a small piece of that grand mosaic at today's meeting.

    The port's governing board is set to consider leasing the Channelside Bay Plaza surface parking lot on Garrison Street to CBP Development LLC, the Vinik-controlled entity that bought the lease to the outdoor mall earlier this year after a long court battle....

  7. Bank of America says robocalls were meant to help Tampa couple


    TAMPA — Joyce and Nelson Coniglio won a $1 million judgment against Bank of America in federal court after enduring years of harassing robocalls.

    The Tampa Bay Times wrote about their plight on Wednesday. When the Tampa couple fell behind on a loan that B of A had bought in 2009, the Coniglios said the bank failed to help them renegotiate the terms and instead inundated them with hundreds of robocalls over four years....

  8. Jeff Vinik group buys 4 more acres of land in downtown Tampa

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik's downtown real estate empire is expanding west — west of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, that is.

    The Tampa Bay Lightning owner's development company, Strategic Property Partners, said Friday that one of its subsidiaries bought 4.12 acres of vacant downtown land at the corner of Brorein and Morgan streets.

    Vinik already owns more than 25 acres on the east side of the expressway, along with the lease to Amalie Arena, Channelside Bay Plaza and the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina in the southern corner of downtown Tampa. This is the first time Vinik has acquired downtown property west of the overpass that runs through the city....

    Jeff Vinik owns 25 acres nearby.
  9. Could Tampa Bay Rays stadium be funded by sixth cent of tourist tax?


    The Tampa Bay Rays face nothing but obstacles in searching for a new home in Tampa.

    The St. Petersburg City Council has yet to bless a deal to let the Rays look outside Pinellas County. A baseball stadium won't be an easy fit in Hillsborough County, either. Taxpayers seem to have little appetite for helping to pay for a new stadium.

    Politicians, though, always seem to find a way. One of those ways may involve tourists....

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, left, and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman talk with Rays president Matt Silverman before Buckhorn threw the ceremonial first pitch at a September game. A sixth cent on tourism taxes could be crucial if the Rays want to build a new bay area stadium.
  10. Bank of America ordered to pay Tampa family $1 million for harassing calls


    TAMPA — For four years, Joyce and Nelson Coniglio were haunted by these words:

    This is Bank of America calling.

    The calls started in 2009 when B of A took over the mortgage the Coniglios used to buy a second home in their Tampa Heights neighborhood. They quickly fell behind.

    The bank called, the family said, while they tried to get the loan modified. B of A called even after the cease-and-desist letters. There were hundreds of robocalls, sometimes five a day....

    Joyce and Nelson Coniglio sit with attorney David Mitchell, left, after they won a $1 million judgment against Bank of America.
  11. Options for a Rays stadium in Tampa

    Local Government

    TAMPA — After years of haggling with St. Petersburg, the Tampa Bay Rays might soon get their chance to explore stadium sites in Tampa.

    Major League Baseball prefers urban locations near office towers, restaurants, condos and parking garages — at least 10 acres in vibrant, walkable areas.

    Unfortunately for the Rays, sites fitting that description are becoming hard to find in Tampa....

    After years of stagnating attendance at Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is negotiating an agreement with the Tampa Bay Rays that could allow the team to search for new stadium sites in Hillsborough County.
  12. Visit Tampa Bay's Doug McClain used Tampa as a story line


    TAMPA — Doug McClain's job is marketing. His passion is storytelling. To him, they are one and the same.

    There is one story, though, that he loves to tell above all others:

    "Telling the story of where you live," he said, "is the best job you can have."

    McClain, 46, had that job for the past 2 ½ years at Visit Tampa Bay, the publicly funded, privately run agency that markets Tampa and Hillsborough County to tourists and meeting planners alike....

    Doug McClain led the shaping of “Unlock Tampa Bay.”
  13. USF trustees vote unanimously to build medical school at Channelside


    TAMPA — The University of South Florida reshaped the future of downtown on Thursday.

    Later this month, it will be Jeff Vinik's turn.

    USF's board of trustees voted unanimously to build a 12-story tower to house the new Morsani College of Medicine and the USF Heart Health Institute in downtown Tampa.

    "This is our rendezvous with destiny," said Dr. Charles Lockwood, the senior vice president of USF Health and dean of the medical school, who was paraphrasing Franklin Delano Roosevelt....

    Plans call for the Morsani College of Medicine and the USF Heart Health Institute to be in a 12-story building at Channelside Drive and S Meridian Avenue in downtown Tampa. The land was donated by Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.
  14. Hillsborough tourism agency Visit Tampa Bay loses two executives


    TAMPA — Hillsborough County tourism agency Visit Tampa Bay is losing two of its top marketing and tourism executives.

    Doug McClain, who spent the past 21/2 years as Visit Tampa Bay's vice president of marketing and communications, is leaving for California. He'll take over the No. 2 spot at Newport Beach & Co., which oversees tourism and economic development for the city. His last day with the Hillsborough agency is Friday....

    Shari Bailey was a director of leisure and travel with Visit Tampa Bay for the past 41/2 years.
  15. USF medical school's proposed move to downtown Tampa part of a trend


    TAMPA — The University of South Florida is not alone in its ambitions to build a medical school in the heart of a city.

    The University of Buffalo, Indiana University, the University of Texas and the University of Washington have all launched or plan to launch similar projects.

    "It makes the medical school more attractive to top faculty and students," urban consultant Paul Umbach said of a downtown campus, "and it helps economically stimulate urban areas."...

    The University of South Florida wants to incorporate its new Morsani College of Medicine with its Heart Health Institute, a new venture proposed for this downtown Tampa location.