It was supposed to be the lifeline Channelside needed to survive, but now Jeff Vinik, who owns the Tampa Bay Lightning, is pulling out of the deal to buy the struggling plaza.
In a brief statement, Vinik said he could not overcome "significant legal hurdles." Lightning spokesperson Bill Wickett wouldn't say what those where.
"Right now, we don't foresee that happening, but you can never say never to anything. But for now we are going to focus on other property that Mr. Vinik has in the area."
It couldn't have come at a worst time, when several businesses have fallen like a row dominos. The popular piano bar, Howl at the Moon, and Stumps Supper Club are gone, and a week later the Imax movie theater folded too.
No one is more disappointed than Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman. She's on the board of the Tampa Port Authority, which owns the Channelside property.
Murman calls this a legal wrinkle that could still be ironed out.
"I think Mr. Vinik has a vision here at Channelside at the Forum. I think he has a clear vision of developing Channelside and I don't think he's abandoned that," said Murman.
The Channelside Entertainment area has been in trouble for years after the former owner defaulted on its $26 million loan.
Standing strong in the economic shakeup is Guy Revelle, who owns Splitsville. He says his business is thriving.
"We are fully committed to the center and we are doing great things out here, even with all this mess that's going around, and we just know it will get out some way or another," Revelle pledged.
And while Channelside is once again in the hunt for new owners, first time visitors like Beverly Sulfaro from Michigan are just looking for reasons to come back.
"A lot of knickknacks but a lot of closed stores. For a place this big, it's awful," offered Sulfaro.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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