PERHAPS nothing could speak to the lethargic pace of the Marina District project and a new hockey arena than the intent by the Toledo Storm hockey club to suspend operations for a year.
Well over half a century old and hopelessly out of date in terms of amenities customarily found in modern sports facilities, the Sports Arena - the Storm's home - has simply outlived its era and its usefulness.
Like it or not, modern arenas rely on suites, club seats, and on-site restaurants to attract sponsors and customers and keep them happy. The 57-year-old building on the eastern bank of the Maumee River has none of those things.
It's not certain yet that the Storm will sit out the 2005-2006 ECHL season; that will depend on whether the team is able to attract new investors before the league's board of governors acts on the Storm's request on April 12. But the mere threat of a one-year hiatus in local hockey has the team's diehard fans nervous.
It's unfortunate that the National Hockey League's canceled season didn't provide the attendance boost Storm officials had hoped for. Season tickets to watch the Storm are a lot less expensive than season tickets to the Red Wings, even if the league is several rungs below the NHL and no Stanley Cup awaits its champion.
Yet hockey-starved Red Wing fans did not make the short trek to Toledo as expected. Instead, attendance is down substantially, partly because fans are not seeing games on television. That would not deter true hockey aficionados who find the game exciting. However, even the NHL will have problems restoring its fan and television-viewer base if players and owners continue to be as obstinate as they were in this lockout season.
Nobody expects the Storm's majority owner, Tim Gladieux, to shoulder financial losses indefinitely, though as owner of the Sports Arena, he has brought some of his problems upon himself by refusing to modernize and expand the building over the years and bring it into the modern era.
Toledo has suffered other disruptions in professional hockey in the past, but the game has snapped back. The city had no professional hockey at all, in fact, for five years after the old Toledo Goaldiggers folded in 1986.
Chicago businessman Barry Soskin established the Storm in 1991 and it has been part of the Toledo sports landscape ever since. Mr. Gladieux purchased the team from Mr. Soskin in 1998.
Rebuilding the Storm's fan base and corporate and civic support will be easier if a new home for Toledo hockey is finally more than a talking point.
The mayor and city council should commit themselves anew to the East Toledo site and take action to get the dirt moving there. As a dividend, that location offers one of the most spectacular urban vistas in Ohio, a view of the west side of the river. An arena decision has languished far too long.