Jeff Vinik’s apparent winning bid Wednesday for Channelside Bay Plaza hopefully marks a new chapter for downtown Tampa’s beleaguered outdoor mall. Though the sale is not yet complete, the terms should satisfy the federal bankruptcy judge overseeing the case four years after the building’s owners, the Irish Bank Resolution Corp., foreclosed on the property. Vinik’s offer should prompt rival bidder Liberty Channelside to move on and not torpedo the sale with further litigation.
The Tampa Bay Lightning owner’s offer of $7.1 million at Wednesday’s auction in New York was the “highest and best,” court records show. Vinik also provided a $10 million letter of credit as assurance that he has the means to upgrade the struggling and worn facility.
The vision Vinik’s development group sketched out this week was for a restaurant-retail-hotel mix at Channelside and an adjacent 23 acres Vinik owns. Channelside would become a gathering place for downtown Tampa’s hottest new neighborhood, tying together the nearby Tampa Bay Times Forum and Florida Aquarium and giving both downtown residents and visitors a signature experience. With his leasehold on the Forum as well, Vinik could master-plan the area with a unifying theme, and his broad financial stake in the area would give him every incentive to build a quality development.