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Published: Wednesday, 11/16/2005

Council OKs $5M sports arena purchase

Toledo City Council yesterday authorized the city to buy the Toledo Sports Arena property for $5 million, using parking garage revenue to pay the tab.

The 25.5-acre parcel at 1 Main St., containing the arena where the Toledo Storm hockey team plays, is the last major portion of the 125-acre Marina District project between the Martin Luther King, Jr., Bridge and the I-280 span.

An option to buy the property was handed to the city last month by the Lucas County Improvement Corp., the city and county's economic development entity.

City officials have said the ordinance allows the sports arena's current owner, Tim Gladieux, to lease the property, paying for its upkeep and keeping any revenues.

The property is expected to be sold or transferred to whomever develops the district.

The money for the purchase will come out of a $725,000 annual revenue stream from parking garages managed by the Downtown Toledo Parking Authority - money that will be freed up when several city construction bonds are retired on Dec. 31, 2006.

Councilman Rob Ludeman, who cast the lone dissenting vote, raised a last-minute objection questioning the purchase price, and noting that the appraisal for the property was handed over by the property's seller, Mr. Gladieux.

Mr. Ludeman asked for a two-week delay - which was voted down - for council to look closely at the appraised price, and possibly conduct its own appraisal, noting an appraisal on a controversial city tow lot property was not completed until after a deal was struck.

"There was no independent appraisal done for the taxpayers of the city," Mr. Ludeman said. "To rush into it at that $5 million price tag I think is irresponsible at this time."

Council President Louis Escobar disagreed, saying it was "amazing" that Mayor Jack Ford had been criticized for taking his time on similar deals, "and now we're talking about rushing into something that many people feel we've been dragging our feet on."

An appraisal was done by Toledo-based Erie Coast Appraisal Group Inc. in Oct., 2004, placing the value of the property between $4 million and $8 million - with top value for the property if it were part of an "assemblage" of lots, such as the Marina District - and requiring $350,000 in cleanup costs.

The appraisal was given to the LCIC by Steve Serchuk, Mr. Gladieux's Realtor.

Mr. Gladieux said in an interview the appraisal was not paid for by him, but rather by another developer interested in the property.

Bill Carroll, the city's economic development director and head of the LCIC, responded that Mr. Gladieux had held fast to his $5 million price during negotiations, that the cleanup had since been done on the property, and that he felt the appraisal was fair and accurate.

City officials said they believed Erie Coast was reputable.

Councilman Bob McCloskey also noted that the Olive Branch rail line property, which runs along the south edge of the Marina District property, still has not been bought.

City officials said there would be an ordinance on the next council agenda to buy the rail line property.



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