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Published: Tuesday, 9/20/2005

New/old owner eyes attendance

Change is inevitable.

Change is good.

And, in the case of the Toledo Storm hockey franchise, change is necessary.

For now, however, partial change must suffice.

Tim Gladieux owns the Storm.

But wait. Chicago businessman Barry Soskin said he owns the Storm.

So, who's the owner? Gladieux or Soskin?

Behind Door No. 1 is Soskin, who's theoretically the owner. He'll run the Storm's day-to-day operations.

Behind Door No. 2 is Gladieux, the real owner. He'll no longer operate the Storm on a daily basis, but he still owns the team, the Sports Arena and the land that surrounds it.

Aren't you glad that's all cleared up?

To avoid further confusion, let's begin at the beginning.

Soskin founded the Storm in 1991 and owned the franchise until 1998, when he sold to Gladieux. Now Soskin wants to re-acquire the team.

Soskin recently agreed to a four-year option to purchase the Storm from Gladieux, who still owns 100 percent of the franchise. Soskin also has an option to purchase the Sports Arena.

Simply put, Soskin will help Gladieux pay the bills until Soskin buys the Storm outright or terminates his option to buy.

Yesterday at a press conference to announce the unusual arrangement, Soskin attempted to explain why having two owners is better than one.

He believes his aggressive marketing style will create more Storm fans, and that increased attendance at the Sports Arena will make the hockey team a more attractive tenant for the proposed arena.

"If I do my job, they will come to me," Soskin said with a Chicago accent as thick as a deep-dish pizza. "If there's going to be some serious [fans] that I'm able to generate, then the people who are going to back the money [for an arena] are going to say the 5 million dollars we need to come up with, maybe it's only a couple of million.

"I don't know what those numbers are, I haven't been involved in some of these negotiations. But we all need to work together."

As principal owner, the low-keyed Gladieux, who didn't attend yesterday's press conference, is interested in maintaining the Storm and making a profit. Nothing wrong with that.

Soskin wants those same things. But he's more passionate in his approach and that's something local hockey fans can appreciate.

Soskin agreed to purchase the Storm, even though no promises have been made that the hockey team will play in a proposed arena to be built in the Marina District or downtown.

The Sports Arena is an eyesore, but the Storm continues to play at the East Toledo site because it remains the best option until something better comes along.

That said, Storm ownership - Gladieux or Soskin, take your pick - is obligated to make the Sports Arena more fan friendly.

Fans take notice when you do that.

They see ownership is committed, so they become more committed.

Eventually, Soskin plans to address the lack of adequate rest room facilities at Storm home games.

"When you're talking about a building that's nearly 60 years old, I don't think it's fair for me to ask my landlord [Gladieux] to go out and spend a million bucks," Soskin said.

"I'm not trying to tell them they have to invest millions of dollars. Just solve the problem: My customers need to go to the bathroom. We have ways that we will be able to solve that."

Ticket-buying Storm fans want to know - heck, they deserve to know - ownership is committed to winning.

They also need to know their concerns about watching hockey in the ancient Sports Arena aren't being taken for granted.

In formulating solutions, the Storm reached the conclusion that two heads are better than one.



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