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Wednesday, Jun 20, 2018
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Group with ties to Lightning owner Vinik buys more land near Forum

TAMPA — A Colorado investment group with ties to Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik bought an additional $10 million in land across from the Forum this week.

When added to about 14 acres it already had purchased in the same area, the new acquisition gives the father-son team of Ray and Michael Baker most of the land along Channelside Drive between Morgan Street and Meridian Avenue.

It wasn't immediately clear what the Bakers, who have a Denver-area firm called Gold Crown Management, plan to do with the land because they couldn't be reached for comment.

However, Vinik has acknowledged in the past that he is a partner in the Bakers' land purchases. Vinik has said he wants to build a large entertainment-oriented development in the Channelside Drive area, and some local officials also hope Vinik and the Bakers will consider building a stadium there for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Neither Vinik nor the Bakers have indicated publicly they would do so, though.

The new land purchase is recorded with the Hillsborough County clerk's office. A deed filed Friday shows an entity tied to the Bakers paid $10 million for 3 acres just north of Channelside Drive and between Morgan and Jefferson streets. The land, roughly across from the Forum, is now used for parking and had been owned by a Miami entity called Channelside Development.

It's the latest in a series of land purchases for the Bakers. They began buying land across from the Forum in 2011, with the $6.8 million purchase of about 7 acres, and they followed that up with a $9.5 million purchase of 7 acres a year later.

One of the last parcels they don't currently own is the ConAgra flour mill property along Finley Street. ConAgra has said it is considering selling the mill land and moving, but it isn't known whether the Baker-Vinik investment group is negotiating to buy the mill land.

Local officials have said a sale of the ConAgra land would open the property up for a large-scale development, whether a stadium or something else.


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