Kelly Launder, left, Ben Holder, and Sara Launder, came from Portage in Wood County to watch their favorite hockey team. Kelly said that attending a Storm game was something the family could do together. She said she always knew where the kids were on a Friday or Saturday night.
Aside from shock, the general consensus among a handful of Toledo Storm fans lamenting the possible loss of their hockey team was that there is a tremendous need for a new arena to save their beloved franchise.
Dwindling season-ticket sales and increasing costs have put the future of the 14-year-old franchise on the brink of suspending operations.
During Toledo's 4-1 win over Johnstown last night at the Sports Arena, the 58-year-old building was the target of the wrath of many fans.
Jeff Martin, a 34-year-old meat processor from Newport, Mich., said he used to come every other weekend to see the Storm.
"It's fun, cheap entertainment," he said. "But I wish they would do something with this building."
"When I first came here it was sold out every night," said Gordon Wilkins, a 67-year-old ticket usher who has worked at the Sports Arena for five years. "At the moment I'm dumbfounded."
Wilkins echoed many of the comments among the fans when he said a new facility would attract more events and would also offer luxury boxes.
"The hockey fans will come back, just like the Mud Hens fans did," said Wilkins, who also is an usher at Fifth Third Field.
Toledoan Matt Schafer, a 36-year-old sales manager, bought season tickets for the first time this season and planned to buy more next year.
"If there is one thing in Toledo that has history behind it, it is hockey," said Schafer, who attended last night's game with his nephew, Derek. "My niece and nephew love it. I can't get them to take their jerseys off."
Schafer said he would like to see new ownership take over the franchise and "make it shine like the Mud Hens are now."
Kelly Launder's daughter, Sara, held a sign that said "Save Our Storm" in the section behind Toledo's bench. Launder, of Portage, Ohio, said attending Storm games is something her family has done together for the last three years.
"If you ask me where my kids are every Friday and Saturday night, they're always here," Launder said.
Fred Trembly, who has been a parking attendant at the Sports Arena for seven years, cited the smoking ban as one factor in the attendance decline.
"The prices for everything are too high," Trembly said. "The parking was $3 - now it's $5. The regular customers who used to tip me, I just don't see anymore."
Adrian resident Ray Cantu brought his 8-year-old son,
Avery, for the first time last night.
"I heard it's a good time," he said. "I was kind of shocked when I heard about it [possibly being the last season]."
"I want to see some fighting," young Avery said.
The cost of season tickets for this season ranged between $414 and $576.
Long-time season-ticket-holders Jim Gramza, Ron Erwin and Larry McCoy all laid the blame directly at the feet of Storm majority owner Tim Gladieux. They said the prices of tickets, parking and concessions all have gone up in recent years.
"It's sad," said Gramza, a 48-year-old Toledoan who has attended games for four decades. "There's no way it should be in this situation."
The trio, who have seats at the top of the arena behind the Storm bench, said they know of at least a dozen season-ticket- holders who no longer attend.
"The only reason we come back is because we love hockey," McCoy said.
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