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Published: Monday, 7/9/2001

Public may view renovation plans for county recreation center

A renovated Lucas County Recreation Center could include a multi-pool family aquatic center, an indoor recreation center and ice arena, and a teen complex including areas for skateboarding, inline hockey, and laser tag.

Proposed renovations for the rec center and its grounds are finished, and design consultants The Collaborative, Inc., will take them to a final public workshop tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the center on Key Street for review. See map of proposed new features

Ideas for the plan were gathered from a steering committee, previous public input sessions, and a telephone survey of some county residents. A final plan will be done after input from tomorrow's meeting and is expected to be in Lucas County commissioners' hands next month.

The study for a renewed use for the site has been under way since January because the Toledo Mud Hens will leave the site after this baseball season to begin play in the ballpark under construction in downtown Toledo.

The Lucas County Agricultural Society, which organizes the county fair there each year, is also looking for a new headquarters. It is expected that the fair will move to a new location.

The land at the recreation center - roughly bordered by Key and Michigan streets, Wilderness Drive, the Norfolk Southern railroad, and the Ohio Turnpike - holds seven softball diamonds, two large rental halls, a swimming pool, Ned Skeldon Stadium, and the fair grounds and its buildings.

The new design shows a main entry where it is now and a loop around the site. Outside that loop is a planned walking and bicycling path.

Plans call for the facility's four-field softball complex to remain, but the area occupied generally by Luke's Barn, Ned Skeldon Stadium, and softball fields to the east of the stadium would be razed or moved for private development.

Consultants' drawings show those attractions replaced by a playground and an indoor recreation center. Just to the south, the plans show an indoor ice arena and a teen complex.

Lucas County Commissioner Harry Barlos said he favors private development of those or similar recreational facilities.

He stressed that the plans are preliminary and may be changed after tomorrow's meeting, and added that the area designated for private development may include other recreational activities than those depicted on the drawing, depending on the ideas of entrepreneurs.

The two rental halls that face Key Street will remain, according to the plan, but Mr. Barlos said that at some point, they should be renovated.

The softball fields that are now to the east of the baseball stadium would eventually be at the south end of the 130-acre site.

That move, however, wouldn't occur until the agricultural society has moved out. A spokesman said the group does not have a location or timetable for its move.

Although Mr. Barlos earlier said the aquatic center might be privately developed, he said he first wants to explore a possible partnership with Maumee officials.

The former Maumee mayor said if it is done properly, the aquatic center will "just yell out for people to dive in."

The commissioner added that he is confident that the aquatic center and the overall change in landscaping should attract visitors, and that in turn should attract interest from private investors for some of the additional facilities.

He pointed out that instead of locating most of the parking along Key Street, the plan calls for a number of smaller parking lots dotted within the facility.

"It will have parking for about 2,000 cars, which is an increase of about 50 percent, but the way it's designed, it almost looks like a reduction in parking spaces," Mr. Barlos said.

He pointed out that the parking areas and the recreational sites are for the most part connected by sidewalks that will make it easier for families to visit a number of facilities, perhaps during a day-long visit.

Sandy Isenberg, president of the board of commissioners, said having a pool facility on the recreation center grounds is among the priorities that emerged from the hearings and telephone surveys conducted by the consultant.

"From the study, we saw that people wanted a pool of some sort," Ms. Isenberg said. "They also wanted skating and a place for kids to hang out."



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