TAMPA, Fla. (TBO.com) - Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik prevailed at an auction Wednesday for control of the Channelside Bay Plaza, giving a big boost to his plans for remaking the overall neighborhood around the Forum where his hockey team plays.

Vinik’s winning bid was $7.1 million for a lease on the property, according to attorneys managing the auction today. Though legal challenges remain, Wednesday’s victory opens a new chapter for the long-struggling retail and entertainment complex adjacent to the cruise ship terminal downtown.

Besides the $7.1 million, Vinik also pledged a $10 million letter of credit to help fix immediate maintenance problems on the existing Channelside structure, according to Van Durrer, an attorney for the Irish bank that’s auctioning off the property. In parallel, Port Tampa Bay made a successful bid of $3.5 million for a mortgage backing the complex, Durrer confirmed, further bonding the port and Vinik together in their plans to remake the site. The auction only lasted seven minutes, not counting instructions by the lawyers involved, partly because the port and Vinik were the only bidders making offers, and they did not bid against each other.

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