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Published: 9/16/2002

Toledo needs new arena with Marina District

Don't blow it, Toledo. Don't stop the momentum.

Aren't you tired of people in other cities looking down their noses at Toledo? Don't just sit there. Get up and make something happen.

When Columbus developer Frank Kass discussed the feasibility of rebuilding the Sports Arena in East Toledo as an alternative to financing a new $40 million arena in the Marina District, I saw it as an obstacle standing in the way of progress.

After making a commitment to building the Marina District, Kass advanced the idea of renovating the Sports Arena.

Why?

To save a few million dollars?

What Toledo would gain financially by remodeling the Sports Arena, I believe the city would lose by removing some of the focus from the Marina District.

Seeking an objective opinion, I called Kansas City-based HOK, one of the country's leading architects of sports facilities. I asked Bob Watson, a principal in the company and a senior project manager, about the feasibility of rebuilding the Sports Arena.

Watson is familiar with Toledo. He has visited the Marina District site and the Sports Arena. He believes that modernizing the Sports Arena would be a major undertaking and perhaps a bit of a gamble.

“With its age and the way it's designed, I would think it would be a challenging project,” Watson said.

“If you're going to increase the seating capacity, it's going to take some major structural work. There are code issues to consider. You have to bring the building totally up to code. That can be difficult to do. Plus, there's the issue of lost revenue while the building is actually closed.

“I wouldn't go so far as to say it's [remodeling the Sports Arena] not a good idea. But it needs to be studied thoroughly.”

After speaking to Watson, I concluded that the idea of the Sports Arena undergoing a face-lift should be considered as a last resort only.

A refurbished Sports Arena would still be in a different location from the Marina District. The Sports Arena isn't in a good spot for creating the same synergy that would exist with a new arena at the Marina District.

I realize that Toledo will never become Cleveland, or Columbus. But we're not Youngstown, either.

Whenever someone mentions the idea of the Marina District, a supporter of the Sports Arena or someone from the group that wants to build a downtown arena will mention the need to hold off on building the Marina District.

For the Marina District to succeed, everyone needs to be on the same page.

Toledoans voiced their approval for the Marina District when they waived a section of the city charter last September that forbids spending city funds on an arena. I hope that sentiment continues to remain strong.

Does Toledo want to bring more people downtown using the Marina District the same way Fifth Third Field attracted more visitors downtown? The recent debate over the Sports Arena vs. the Marina District seems like an unnecessary distraction.

If anything, the excitement generated by Fifth Third Field should accelerate the commitment to complete the Marina District.

I hope Kass remains excited and optimistic about financing the Marina District. I hope the fact he's talking about the feasibility of remodeling the Sports Arena doesn't mean he's having second thoughts about doing the project altogether.



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