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Published: Friday, 1/17/2003

Downtown coalition calls for arena study


A coalition of downtown interests plans to renew its efforts to build an arena near SeaGate Centre in downtown Toledo rather than in the proposed Marina District on the city's east side.

Bruce Rumpf, spokesman for the group, yesterday called for the city to give consultant Thomas Chema a new assignment - a feasibility study of the best location for a new hockey and concert arena.

“Since it appears to be predominantly public monies through taxation [that will pay for the arena], that changes the dynamics and we need to look for the most viable site that uses the best approach of using taxpayer dollars,” said Mr. Rumpf, the owner of an employment agency and a real estate development company.

The Coalition for a Downtown Arena plans a presentation at 10 a.m. today in SeaGate Centre of its own proposals for the Marina District. In the past, the group has suggested a golf course or housing on the 125-acre parcel, which is along the Maumee River between Main Street and I-280.

Mr. Chema, a Cleveland lawyer, this week gave the city a 63-page feasibility study saying the only way to build an arena is with a new revenue source. He suggested levying taxes on beer, wine, liquor, and tobacco products - the same “sin” tax used by Cuyahoga County, Ohio since 1990 to fund Jacobs Field and Gund Arena in downtown Cleveland.

The report recommended an arena of 8,500 seats, expandable to 10,000 seats, at a cost of about $55 million. Mr. Chema was required by his contract to limit his study to the East Toledo site.

Mayor Jack Ford endorses the proposed sin tax, which will require a public vote. An election date has not been set.

The downtown group has long opposed the plan to replace the existing Toledo Sports Arena in the same location. The group contends that it will compete with the convention center and other existing businesses.

The arena is to be the centerpiece of the Marina District, a $191 million project that would include stores, hotels, restaurants, theaters, residences, offices, and marinas.

Peter Gerken, chairman of City Council's environment committee, said he'd support rehiring Mr. Chema for another look at the best place to put the arena.

“The Chema report raised as many questions as it answered,” Mr. Gerken said. “It pried the lid - unintentionally maybe - off the question of where to locate the arena. Let's not go one question short.”

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