This morning, Lightning owner Jeff Vinik unveiled his plans for Downtown Tampa, where he has been purchasing a significant amount of land. The same location has been viewed as a potential Rays stadium site, with hopes that adding a second stadium would breathe life into the surrounding property downtown.
Vinik clearly feels he doesn't need the Rays to bring Downtown Tampa to life.
The full scope of land recently purchased by Jeff Vinik includes the Channelside Mall, and the majority of the land on the south side, including a new swath of land on the north side of the elevated Selmon Expressway.
Here's some perspective on the land his property group now owns, facing north east:
Vinik's plans include building all the way up to the ConAgra Flour Mill, the indent of land his property holdings group does not own on the upper portion, east of the Selmon Expressway.
Is it surprising that the plans don't include the Rays?
On one hand no, Vinik has a priority to his own interests, which likely includes not overlapping with the Lightning footprint or taking away from his recently purchased Mall.
The new plans include more hotels and office space, including a desire to bring a corporate headquarters to the south side of downtown, and a place for USF's expanding Medical School to operate. Those two priorities will be an "anchor" for the new space.
On the other hand, it's worth noting that co-investors with Vinik's holding group are the builders and operators of Colorado's Coors Field. Vinik himself is a chair member on the board of Boston's Fenway Sports Group as well, so his property team is full of baseball acumen.
What these plans do for the Rays' search can actually be seen as a positive as well. Vinikville should generate around $1 billion of economic activity downtown, with cranes rolling in to start construction in about a year.
Once it's all built, there will likely be significantly more business offices and apartments in the area, a reasonably higher influx of convention activity at the arena, and a significant increase in public transportation (through the street car system) and parking, a plus if the Rays have a nearby location identified.
So if Vinik is not making room for the Rays, where could they fit downtown? The answer is, quite simply, next door -- still in the Channelside District.
More on that shortly.