Decision on Channelside bid delayed

Tampa, Florida -- Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik will have to wait at least until Thursday to learn if he's the new owner of the Channelside Bay Plaza in downtown Tampa, across from the Forum.

A federal bankruptcy court judge in Delaware is considering whether to approve the deal. If approved, Vinik will become a step closer to revitalizing the failing complex, but the court battle isn't quite over.

The judge adjourned the hearing before 5 p.m. Tuesday, and will continue it Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

"We believe he can do it. We are excited for him to do it," said Rachel Prophet, assistant manager at Flambe'. She believes the future looks brighter, not only for her waterfront restaurant, but for the entire area if Vinik is driving Channelside's redevelopment.

"We have very much high hopes. We've been waiting for this for years and were looking forward to it. It's going to be great for downtown Tampa," Prophet said.

Precinct Pizza owner Rick Drury also backs the Lightning and Tampa Bay Storm owner's vision for a new Channelside Live.

Drury believes Vinik is the one to bring some dough back to struggling businesses. "There's no question he has a history of success in putting his money where his mouth is and definitely rehabilitating trouble areas, so we're excited if he can take over Channelside," Drury said.

Vinik also has the support of the Port Authority that owns the land.

The businessman had the $7.1 million winning bid during a recent court auction and signed a $10 million letter of credit to prove he has the funds to revive the complex.

But, the group Liberty Channelside is challenging the deal claiming the Port Authority and Vinik have been in cahoots. Liberty had offered to pay $7 million for Channelside, which is owned by the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation.

In a statement, the group said: "Liberty regrets the fact that the Irish Bank and its lawyers conducted a confusing, ineffective and fundamentally unfair auction procedure that culminated … in an offer that is only $100,000 more than Liberty was prepared to close on last May."

Many business owners, who have been paying rent to the bankruptcy court, say it's time to move forward even if it comes with growing pains.

"We might have to close down for a little bit of time, everyone might have to, but the end project will be worth it," Prophet said.

Customers just want more choices back at Channelside.

"We are close by, so we're mostly here for lunch, but the younger crowd might be lured with more action going on nightlife," Rick Nutter said.

"Something family-oriented. Something that kids can do, and parents will be able to enjoy," Lincoln Wagacha said.

Channelside Bay Plaza opened in 2001, complete with restaurants, nightclubs, and a movie theater.

In 2010, Channelside went into foreclosure, the Irish bank claimed the ownership group owed them $27 million.

In 2012, some of the bigger cornerstones of the plaza -- Stump's Supper Club, Howl at the Moon and the movie theater -- closed.

In just the past two weeks, Vinik's group won the bid at the auction and is waiting to have it approved by a bankruptcy judge.

Here's more coverage of the Channelside sale:

Port accepts Vinik offer

See what's part of L.A. Live

Lightning owner's vision

Vinik also plans luxury hotel

Liberty offer for Channelside


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