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Published: Sunday, 8/2/2009

Walleye season ticket holders tour brand-new Lucas County Arena

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Walleye season ticket holders were treated to guided tours of the 7,500-seat Lucas County Arena in downtown Toledo Saturday. Walleye season ticket holders were treated to guided tours of the 7,500-seat Lucas County Arena in downtown Toledo Saturday.
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Toledo boasts another "mini Major League" arena downtown.

That was the general consensus reached yesterday by hundreds of Toledo Walleye season ticket holders who were treated to a sneak peak of the new Lucas County Arena.

More than 800 fans showed up for a tour of the $105 million facility. "Spectacular" and "top of the line" were common phrases uttered by groups of 30 on the guided tours.

The 7,500-seat arena at Huron Street and Jefferson Avenue also drew favorable comparisons to the Mud Hens' Fifth Third Field. The stadium is considered to be one of the best in minor league baseball.

Both offer many of the amenities of major league stadiums, but on a smaller scale.

Scott Feeney, 26, of Maumee said he purchased an 18-game ticket plan.

"I love it. It's awesome," he said. "There's not a bad seat in the house."

Casey and Tony Wieczorek, a young couple from Rossford, called the facility "state-of-the-art."

"It's a lot like going from old Ned Skeldon Stadium to Fifth Third Field," Tony Wieczorek said. "After awhile you have to move up to newer and better things."

The Walleye play their first game at the facility on Friday, Oct. 16. Highlights will be shown on an eye-catching main video board that is 600 square feet.

A 600-foot "ribbon scoreboard" also wraps around the entire arena between the upper and lower bowls.

There are 144 flat-screen televisions throughout the arena. Even the seats offer luxury with a 3-inch cushion on the bottom and 2-inch cushion on the back. Each also has a cup holder.

Ten concession and three souvenir stands are sprinkled throughout the main concourse with names like: "Frogtown Burger Co." and "The Swamp Shop."

Waits for restrooms should be a thing of the past with nine men's, 13 women's and three family restrooms. The Sports Arena had just eight total restrooms.

"All right!," shouted one woman on the tour.

Nineteen of the 20 private suites on the upper level have already been sold. However, there are three rental suites available for individual games.

More than 2,000 season tickets have been sold, which is fourth most in the entire ECHL.

Jim Yost, of Rossford, said he purchased a season-ticket plan with three other fans. The 64-year-old said he is "old school" and his days of watching hockey stretch back to the days of the Blades.

"I'm very impressed with this as I walk through here," Yost said. "It will be a modern family-oriented facility. It will be a place where you'll want to take your grandkids."

Yost, who also is a hockey official, said he has been in hundreds of arenas.

"I wished I could get on the ice here," he said. "This looks really nice."

But at least one fan said the arena has one major flaw.

"Where's the scoreboard?," asked Steve Paprocki, 61, of Point Place. "I think they should have a scoreboard over the middle of the ice like every other arena."

Walleye officials said the scoreboard will likely show the score, shots on goal, penalties and other stats.

The club suite level, which overhangs the lower bowl, and the locker rooms are not open to the public yet.

The arena, which is 82 feet high, is connected to the SeaGate Convention Centre. A large plaza outside one entrance will feature a statue of jazz great and Toledo native Art Tatum.

Former Toledo city councilman Mark Sobczak was among the "tourists" yesterday.

"It's an excellent facility. I was involved in some of the planning of this," Sobczak said. "I knew they were going to keep the wide open concourse concept. That keeps the fans engaged. You can see what's going on even though you're getting a hotdog or beer."

TICKETS ON SALE: Individual tickets will go on sale to the public Saturday.

All individual tickets will be $15, while kids 12-and-under and seniors will pay $13.

Thirty-four of the 36 home dates will be made available at 9 a.m. at the Fifth Third Field box office. Tickets for the home opener on Oct 16 and on Oct. 17 will not be available. Those are only guaranteed in full season and half-season plans.

Tickets can be purchased by phone at 419-725-WALL (9255) or online at www.toledowalleye.com. Full and partial season ticket packages are also available.

Walleye assistant general manager Erik Ibsen said with the season just over two months away, the organization is excited to launch the ticket campaign.

"With the success of the season ticket sales, we realize that fans are anxious for the return of professional hockey to Toledo," Ibsen said.

Contact Mark Monroe at:

mmonroe@theblade.com

or 419-304-4760.



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