Lightning owner Jeff Vinik continues his buying spree of Channelside real estate

Land purchases spur speculation

TAMPA - It's definitely not Tampa's garden spot -- acres of weeds smack dab in the center of town that generate little more than occasional  parking fees.  The ConAgra flour plant surrounded with razor wire adds no charm.

Some say these eyesores are a drag on Tampa's future, not to mention a lousy view for the few people who live nearby.

Essentially, Tampa has a giant hole right in the middle of it's downtown.  On the one side are the high rises of downtown. On the other side is the fast-growing Channelside residential district.  Right in the middle, overlooking this void, is the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

This week, a plan to fill that void came closer to fruition.  The office of Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik confirmed that Vinik's partners have been snapping up these lots when they come available. Three acres across the street from the forum between Morgan and Jefferson Streets were just purchased for $10 million.

The Lightning team owner, transplanted from Boston, has endeared himself to the community as a philanthropist and visionary. 

Vinik has hinted at ambitions to create something similar to the L.A. Live Complex across the street from the Staples Center. And the Tampa Mayor has said the area would be a fine spot for baseball stadium.

Vinik's office is not talking about specific plans, but it's assumed he is interested on the Channelside Bay Plaza complex when it comes out of bankruptcy.

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