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(Carl Cronan is editor of Real EstateFlorida.)

TAMPA, FL-The new owners of the Tampa Bay Lightning have plenty of ideas about developing land surrounding the St. Pete Times Forum. They just aren’t ready to proceed with them yet, despite efforts by local tourism officials to advance a planned hotel adjacent to the arena.

Lightning Investment Holdings LP, which took control of the National Hockey League franchise three weeks ago, bought the rights to develop two parcels totaling 5.5 acres in Downtown Tampa as part of its $200-million acquisition of the team and leasehold rights to the publicly owned arena. However, the eight-member ownership group has been focused lately on personnel matters, such as signing players to lucrative long-term contracts, rather than real estate.

“At this time, we need to carefully look at the various options for the two separate properties and then determine the best course of action moving forward,” Lightning owners said in a prepared statement responding to local media inquiries. “We look forward to great things for the community.”

Excitement over the Lightning’s plans was sparked earlier this week during an annual tourism forecast presented by the Hillsborough County Hotel and Motel Association, during which local tourism marketing chief Paul Catoe told the audience that the team would build a hotel and convention center on the arena’s west side parking lot. The hotel would be right across the street from the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina.

Lou Plasencia, a Tampa-based hotel industry consultant, says the lot is large enough to support up to 900 rooms, though the larger question remains whether team owners could secure as much as $6 million in financing for such a project. Plasencia provided services to another investment group that made a bid for the Lightning over the past year.

Two of the Lightning’s new owners have extensive commercial real estate experience: Craig Sher, executive chairman of the St. Petersburg-based Sembler Co., and Len Barrie, head of Bear Mountain Resort in Victoria, BC. The Lightning’s previous owners, Palace Sports & Entertainment, had its own retail and hospitality development plans yet never moved forward over the last nine years.

All other members of Lightning Investment Holdings likely have the finances to build around the St. Pete Times Forum as they see fit. The group is led by Oren Koules, a minor-league hockey player turned Hollywood movie and television producer best known for the “Saw” thriller films and the CBS comedy “Two and a Half Men.”

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