Tampa, Florida- Channelside business owners received some disappointing news- Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik pulled out of a deal to buy the financially struggling complex.
Vinik's plans were to make the area more people-friendly by adding a pedestrian bridge between Channelside and the parking garage, adding another building, more entertainment and possibly a hotel.
"We thought it would be the solution to our problems. It's very disappointing if that's the resolution to the whole thing," says Rick Drury, owner of Precinct Pizza at Channelside. Drury said the problem is vacancies are up, while business is down.
"We've had a few hurdles, the BP oil spill, NHL lockout, RNC hurts us and now the bankruptcy of Channelside," said Drury.
The retired paramedic from New York says he's making adjustments to stay open.
"I've cut labor here and there. My wife and I work more and watch the food cost. Now we're breaking even rather than making money. It's tough; it's definitely tough," said Drury.
The Tampa Port Authority owns the land and a government run bank in Ireland owns Channelside. The bank took over $27-million loan a former owner defaulted on in 2010.
Rick Wickett, Executive Vice President of Communications for the Lightning says, "There are legal challenges in front of us. We can't control and can't influence them, so because of that we decided enough is enough and we need to walk away from it."
Lightning officials won't reveal the legal challenges, but some speculate it's over an agreement giving Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp., a real estate firm based in New York, the right to match any offer.
Drury says he's very familiar with this managing group. "If they are the ones that nixed this deal, something else has got to be done. They were terrible property managers- terrible, awful, absentee managers- and absentee landlords. They ran this place into the ground," says Drury.
Lightning officials say they will move forward with other redevelopment plans. Wickett says Vinik owns about six acres adjacent to the Forum, it's property he plans to develop.
Drury remains optimistic about the area's future. "I think Channelside will bounce back it's a matter of time. This is just a bump in the road for us."
Ten News tried reaching Ashkenazy, but our calls have not been returned.