Justin George, Times Staff Writer

Justin George is a general assignment reporter based in Tampa. He graduated from the University of Colorado and worked at the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colo., and the Daily Press in Newport News, Va., before joining the Times' Citrus County bureau in 2004. He is a graduate of Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

Phone: (813) 226-3368

Toll free: 1-800-333-7505, Ext. 3368

Fax: (813) 226-3381

Twitter: @justingeorge

E-mail: jgeorge@tampabay.com

  1. A tour of the Tampa Bay Times Forum


    It was first called the Ice Palace. Then the St. Pete Times Forum. Now it's the Tampa Bay Times Forum. It has hosted concerts, national events like the Republican National Convention and it has been the Tampa Bay Lightning's home for the past 16 years. � This year the Lightning turns 20. The Times Forum is where the Lightning won Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004. It's where the championship banner was raised the next season in front of a record crowd of 22,120. � It was also the site of the 1999 NHL All-Star Game. � Last year, the Times Forum underwent $40 million in renovations that included a pipe organ and two Tesla coils that shoot lightning from the arena's ceiling after goals. � To celebrate the Lightning's two decades, the franchise opened up the Times Forum for tours that include visits to the locker rooms, laundry room and even the VIP clubs where Clint Eastwood borrowed a chair to make his famous speech. The Times went along for a tour. Here's what we saw....

  2. Church band's prayers answered with fateful knock at door

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Thursday is rehearsal night for the band at Relevant Church. But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were playing on national television on Thursday, and the guitarist wanted to watch.

    So the band moved practice a day earlier.

    Knowing Sunday's sermon would focus on the pitfalls of pride and arrogance, Carl von dem Bussche, the church's creative arts pastor and the band's lead singer, picked out a song he felt fit perfectly: Demons by indie rock group Imagine Dragons. Demons' lyrics — Don't get too close, it's dark inside, it's where my demons hide — exemplified how people conceal hidden flaws, he thought....

    From left are Relevant Church bassist Mark Allen, Relevant Church drummer Josh Sutton, Imagine Dragons lead singer Dan Reynolds, Imagine Dragons guitarist Wayne Sermon, Relevant Church creative arts pastor and lead singer Carl von dem Bussche, Relevant Church guitarist John B. Sutton.
  3. Campaign contributions raise questions in supervisor's race.


    TAMPA — Should employees contribute to their boss' campaign — especially if the boss is running for supervisor of elections?

    Candidate Rich Glorioso says no. His opponent Craig Latimer says it's fine.

    They are competing for the job held by outgoing Hillsborough County elections supervisor Earl Lennard, who has an opinion, too.

    "I have no reason to question the integrity of these employees," Lennard said in a letter Friday, "and further, let me assure you that the Supervisor of Elections office will absolutely conduct a free and fair election."...

  4. The Hold Steady is the hot ticket at Guavaween



    The Hold Steady has appeared on the Late Show With David Letterman, the Colbert Report and the covers of major music magazines. Movie stars have called the hard-rocking indie outfit their favorite band.

    Hailing from Brooklyn, N.Y., the Hold Steady has found a second home that many other New Yorkers have found over the years. Florida. Specifically, Ybor City.

    The connection between the band and Tampa's historic cigar district is strange, whimsical and nonsensical. But among fans, it's strong and will be on display Saturday night when the band returns to Ybor City to headline Guavaween, giving the annual Tampa Halloween tradition some major national cred from a band with pseudo local ties....

    The Hold Steady, with frontman Craig Finn, performs in Indio, Calif. The band likes to reference Ybor City; not so much Indio.
  5. Longshoreman remembered as loving pastor


    TAMPA — During his last sermon Saturday, the Rev. Hercules Gilmore told his small East Tampa congregation to be a "flashlight" to the world. Shine, spread the good news and live it out like a beacon for everyone to see.

    Longshoremen who worked with the pastor on the Port of Tampa docks said he practiced what he preached, providing encouragement and confidence to other stevedores at the right time in people's lives....

  6. At memorial service, former Congressman Sam Gibbons hailed as Tampa's 'favorite son'


    TAMPA — The memorial service for Sam Gibbons was held in a church where, in his last days, the statesman sat in a wheelchair by the organ, singing with all the gusto he could find.

    It was his church, Palma Ceia Presbyterian, named for the neighborhood that Gibbons helped Tampa incorporate into its boundaries.

    Across the street was Plant High School, his alma mater, and many miles to the north, the University of South Florida, an institution that Gibbons helped establish....

    Grandchildren Jayne Ashby Gibbons, left, and Carolyn Gibbons stand by on Saturday as Lt. Hanley Gibbons talks about how his grandfather guided his life, including military service.
  7. Crowd expected for funeral of former U.S. Rep. Sam Gibbons


    TAMPA — Top local and national dignitaries along with hundreds of mourners are expected to fill Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church on Saturday to honor Sam Gibbons, the World War II veteran and longtime congressman who helped create the University of South Florida.

    Gibbons, 92, died Oct. 10. A lifelong Presbyterian, he was a member of the South Tampa church where the memorial service will be held. Church officials estimate about 600 people can fit in the sanctuary. The church plans to open its side doors and set up chairs in a courtyard if overflow crowds appear....

  8. Seminole Heights library closes to make way for bigger, better branch

    Local Government

    TAMPA — The library that serves Tampa's largest neighborhood will close on Halloween to make room for a replacement more than three times its size.

    The nearly 50-year-old one-story Seminole Heights Branch Library at Central and Osborne avenues across from Memorial Middle School is being torn down and replaced by a $6.9 million, two-story building that is expected to open in winter 2013....

    A rendering of the new Seminole Heights Branch Library shows a 22,000-square-foot building that  will sit closer to the street than the current structure. It is set to open next winter.
  9. Hillsborough County supervisor of elections: Craig Latimer (D), Rich Glorioso (R)


    It's a race between an insider and a longtime politician. Craig Latimer retired from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office as a major before he became chief of staff at the Supervisor of Elections Office. Rich Glorioso retired as a colonel in the Air Force before becoming a Plant City commissioner and state representative. Both are vying to replace retiring Earl Lennard, the former Hillsborough...

  10. Ybor City panel approves Tampa's tree replacement plan

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Trees will soon return to barren blocks of Ybor City after the district's architectural review commission approved a city plan to replace more than 100 trees cut down in late September.

    The Barrio Latino Commission, a city entity, signed off Tuesday on the planting of up to 108 mostly crape myrtle and olive trees along sidewalks that line the 1-square-mile historic entertainment and business district. The city had delayed the project to seek the commission's approval as a nod toward transparency and cooperation after work crews chopped down 102 mostly diseased or problematic oaks and hollies on Sept. 21 without informing many merchants, residents and city officials....

  11. Tampa Theatre needs $150,000 to enter digital film age



    The first film shown at Tampa Theatre, a 1926 silent romance known as Ace of Cads, disappeared forever. It was stored on nitrate film, which is flammable and prone to combust. It also decayed easily.

    Like most films shown before 1929, the movie starring Adolphe Menjou vanished over the decades, leaving a void in the history of American film and culture.

    Tampa Theatre has tried to slow this deterioration of time. Behind the stage is a lighting board that includes red switches, red bulbs and big white levers that still operate the stage lights, just as when the theater opened....

    Tampa Theatre needs to raise $150,000 to buy a digital projector and sound equipment.
  12. Oaks at Tampa office building are spared ax, unlike Ybor City's trees

    Local Government

    TAMPA — With summer temperatures consistently around 90 degrees, property manager Cal Buikema knows the importance of the oak trees that line his skyscraper.

    "Heat deterrence," he says.

    Over the years, he has also come to admire their stature as tall sentries complementing his 42-story downtown building with pewter-tinted windows and a Spanish rosa dante granite surface that rises into a pyramid....

    Honk Visder of Valley Crest landscaping guides the removal of a crape myrtle stump in Ybor City last week. After complaints about 102 cut trees, officials halted replanting until a review.
  13. A Rain maker has tall hopes for ABA basketball team

    Working Life

    There are second careers, and then there's Dennis Casazza's new job. At the age of 73, he oversees a fledgling basketball team despite having no experience in basketball, playing or otherwise. Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., Casazza is the vice president and general manager of the Tampa Bay Rain, an expansion American Basketball Association franchise that began playing this month. • Casazza, a former engineer, salesman, marketer and telecommunications company owner, moved to Tampa to retire in 2002. That's where he met Steve Davis, who owned a company that digitized paper records. Casazza worked for him as a marketing consultant until about three years ago, when Davis sold the company. • Davis went on to buy and create the Tampa Bay Rain franchise, and he went back to his old friend Casazza to run and market the operation. Times staff writer Justin George caught up with Casazza to ask him why he thinks the Rain will bring a torrent of fans to Expo Hall at the Florida State Fairgrounds....

    Dennis Casazza is general manager of the Tampa Bay Rain, an American Basketball Association team that plays at the fairgrounds’ Expo Hall. The team, he says, could usher in NBA play.
  14. Elmo and Cookie Monster visit St. Joseph's Children's Hospital


    TAMPA — Two iconic furry characters that have touched generations of Americans came bounding into St. Joseph's Children's Hospital on Friday bent on bringing smiles to ill children. They came with blanketing hugs, peek-a-boo mitts and bright, googly eyes, disregarding their own mortality, having only recently learned that they themselves might be facing a deadly prognosis.

    Elmo and Cookie Monster made a special hospital visit Friday in advance of Sesame Street Live's Elmo Makes Music shows over the next five nights at the University of South Florida Sun Dome. Twenty-four miles away, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was in Pier Park in St. Petersburg....

    Elmo meets St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital patient Xiomara Nunez-Conley, 5. She had kidney surgery the day before.
  15. After massive tree cutting in Ybor City, Tampa will take public input before replanting

    Local Government


    City agency and department heads failed Thursday to resolve Tampa City Council members' concerns about why a contractor chopped down 102 trees in the historic cigar factory district.

    City parks officials halted replanting trees until the public could weigh in Oct. 16 before the Barrio Latino Commission, which oversees Ybor City architectural changes.

    The trees became a thorn in the administration's side Sept. 21, when city contractor ValleyCrest Tree Care Services sawed scores of live oak and holly trees on Ybor sidewalks, leaving behind 4-foot stumps and confused merchants. ...