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Published: Sunday, 4/10/2005

Storm, Hens joining forces is a great idea


The idea of the Storm joining forces with the Mud Hens to ultimately vacate the ancient Sports Arena and move into a new state-of-the-art facility makes almost too much sense.

As logical as it would be for the Storm to maintain its current ownership and direction and wait for city officials to build a new arena, the Mud Hens taking over the Storm makes far more sense.

While the Sports Arena once provided a cozy home-ice advantage for the Storm, now it's an obstacle impeding progress.

The fact is the Sports Arena, located in East Toledo near the proposed Marina District, has turned off all but the most loyal and passionate hockey fans.

Hockey is too grounded in Toledo to lose because of an arena - or lack of one.

That's why Storm majority owner Tim Gladieux's discussions with Mud Hens general manager Joe Napoli are so encouraging.

By thinking outside the box and coming up with logical alternatives for keeping the Storm in Toledo, Gladieux and Napoli are attempting to do something not often witnessed among movers and shakers in Lucas County.

They're working together, instead of pulling apart.

It'll be interesting to see, if the Storm and Mud Hens reach an agreement, what the overall impact will be as to re-making Toledo into a more prominent sports city.

Who knows? Maybe it could be the impetus for something daring like a Toledo Sports Commission that attracts events such as an NCAA regional basketball tournament to the new arena.

Don't laugh. The opportunity facing Toledo right now is an exciting one.

Gladieux is strongly hinting that the Mud Hens could assume nonprofit ownership of the Storm if he doesn't sell to outside investors.

In a best-case senario,

Gladieux wouldn't sell to an outside investor who isn't financially and emotionally connected to Toledo.

Gladieux, for his part, is finally acknowledging that two heads are better than one.

Napoli envisions doing the same thing for the Storm that he did for the Mud Hens, by making the hockey team a destination point with a new playing facility.

Napoli stressed, however, that not being able to secure a new arena would be a deal-killer.

The Storm/Mud Hens can use this opportunity to take a leadership role in Lucas County and eliminate the political, legal and financial obstacles that have prevented the construction of a new arena.

There are two arena groups in Toledo. There's the group that wants the arena to be part of the Marina District, and there's the group that wants a downtown arena.

I'd prefer for the arena to be the centerpiece of the Marina District, since that's what the voters have already decided.

However, if the proposed Storm/Mud Hens partnership becomes a reality and a financial plan is developed to build a downtown arena with the same resources that were used to build Fifth Third Field, then I'm all ears.

Getting a new arena built in Toledo may be more important than debating over where it should be built.

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