Welcome to Vinikville: Lightning owner purchases property near the Tampa Bay Times Forum

ALL YOUR ABANDONED RESTAURANTS ARE BELONG TO JEFF VINIK - The former site of Newk's Cafe has been purchased by a group that includes Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and will be at least partially restored in hopes to be used for events during the upcoming Republican National Convention. (Clark Brooks photo)

The bid put forth by a group fronted by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik to purchase the troubled Channelside Bay Plaza is expected to be accepted with little or no opposition when the Tampa Port Authority meets on June 19. This week, it was announced that groups involving Vinik have acquired two parcels of property across the street from the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

One of those properties is the building at the northwest corner of Channelside Drive and Old Water Street, which is the former home of Newk's Café and later The Hut. Efforts to restore that building have already begun with debris being hauled away and new safety fencing installed. It's believed the building will be available for use in some capacity during the upcoming Republican National Convention which will be held at the Forum.

The other is located at the northeast corner of Channelside Drive and Morgan Street. The building there had been home to a law office but is probably better remembered by Lightning fans as The Outpost.

The long term plan for both properties is unknown but the obvious assumption is that it's tied to Vinik's bid to acquire the Channelside Bay Plaza, a cluster of restaurants, bars and retail shopping establishments located just east of the Forum. Among other possibilities: the buildings could be restored and leased long term to retail tenants or razed for the purpose of creating additional parking lots. An article posted here at Raw Charge in October mentioned that the approximate cost to raze the building at the corner of Channelside and Old Water would be approximately $30,000.

Vinik has been assertive in establishing a presence in downtown Tampa since purchasing the Lightning in February of 2010 and the Arena Football League's Tampa Bay Storm in January of 2011, beginning with $40 million in renovations to the Tampa Bay Times Forum that began last summer. In addition to acquiring property near the Forum, Vinik recently leased space in the nearby SunTrust Bank office building for the purpose of relocating his other (non-Tampa Bay Lightning) business holdings to the Tampa Bay area.

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