Friday, October 30, 2015

Executive Director's Message: Jeff Vinik’s Keynote Remarks Regarding Downtown Tampa Plans Highlight Bench Bar Conference

By John F. Kynes

Sharing his grand vision to make Tampa’s Channelside area the “next great urban waterfront district,” Jeff Vinik’s keynote address to HCBA members was one of the highlights of the 19th Annual Bench Bar Conference and Judicial Reception held on October 27 at the Tampa Hilton Downtown.

When Vinik purchased the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010, he promised to transform the franchise into a “world-class” organization, on and off the ice, and to make a significant positive impact in the Tampa Bay community. Now, just five years later, I think it’s unanimous: Mission accomplished.

On the ice last season, the Lightning battled to get into the NHL playoffs and eventually won the Eastern Conference Championship, beating the New York Rangers in seven hard-fought games. Then they played the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals, losing the series in six games.

In the community, the Lightning Foundation has donated more than $6 million to more than 200 local nonprofits through its Community Heroes program in which a representative from a charity is presented a $50,000 check at each home game.

In his remarks to the 650 luncheon attendees, Vinik said the first phase of the downtown development is estimated to be $1 billion, with another $1 billion targeted for phase two of the project. He said phase one will be under way in 2016 and will include: the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine; 1,000 new residential units; new commercial office space; upscale retail and restaurants; significant roadway improvements; and a new four-star hotel.

In addition, Vinik said Strategic Property Partners, the real estate company he controls with Cascade Investment, has partnered with New York-based Delos on a wellness initiative that will make the district the first WELL-certified neighborhood in the world. This means all the buildings will have to meet certain environmental and health criteria that will improve the overall quality of life of the people who live and work in the district. The criteria include walkability, green space, air and water quality, and fitness.

“All of us can change this area, the way we think about it, the way it is branded. I know this is doable,” Vinik told the crowd.

In the meantime, Vinik said he has received a tremendous response from corporate leaders in his travels around the country to recruit companies to locate in Tampa and the downtown district. “We’re very confident that over time we’re going to bring thousands of high-paying jobs to the Tampa Bay area,” he said.

Later, taking a moment to reflect on his new work as a developer, Vinik joked: “In my previous life, I was a money manager in business and always kept my head down and was focused on performance. I had no idea that next thing you know I would become a salesperson.”

Concluding his remarks, Vinik sounded an optimistic tone: “We are on the map, we are resonating, and I couldn’t be more bullish for the outlook for this area.”


The theme for this year’s Bench Bar Conference was “Breaking Good: Prioritizing Professionalism in Advocacy.”

Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Judges Samantha Ward and Lisa Campbell were the conference co-chairs. Both judges worked for months with the other dedicated Bench Bar Committee members; the HCBA’s CLE director, Monique Lawson; and other HCBA staff members planning the conference.

“Our committee is challenged annually to develop programs and sessions that are of interest to a large cross-section of attorneys, but remain practical and relevant to their practice areas,” Judge Ward said. “We tried to create an environment where members of the Bar feel free to express concerns and criticisms to the Bench, and not vice-versa with the usual ‘judicial pet peeves.’”

There were a record number of attendees at the various CLE breakout and plenary sessions held throughout the day.

“The feedback from attorneys has been phenomenal,” Ward said.

One highlight, Ward said, was a jury panel session where recent jurors came and answered questions from attorneys about their jury experience. “It was my favorite part of the conference this year, and we are working to explore and expand this concept for future sessions,” Ward said.

Later in the day, more than 400 HCBA members enjoyed the camaraderie provided at the annual Judicial Reception at the Hilton.

Special thanks and gratitude go out to the many generous sponsors that helped make this year’s conference possible, and especially the Diamond Sponsor, Steve Yerrid and The Yerrid Law Firm.

Planning is already under way for the 20th annual conference next fall.

See you around the Chet.