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Published: Friday, 2/10/2006

East siders seek unity over Sports Arena

John Fye is among a group of east-side residents who wants the city to build a sports arena near the planned Marina District. East Toledoans gathered last night and pledged to press the Toledo administration to uphold a 2001 vote that would allow the city to provide financial support for an arena in that part of Toledo. John Fye is among a group of east-side residents who wants the city to build a sports arena near the planned Marina District. East Toledoans gathered last night and pledged to press the Toledo administration to uphold a 2001 vote that would allow the city to provide financial support for an arena in that part of Toledo.
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The consensus of more than 40 east siders crammed into a meeting room last night was clear: They voted in 2001 for a sports arena in East Toledo, and they intend to remind city and county officials of their resolve.

The meeting, held at the East Toledo Family Center, was called by Paul J. Gibbs to gauge grassroots support - and he found it.

"We're going to have to pull together on this," said Mr. Gibbs, an East Toledoan who before last night was not an activist. "Hopefully, we'll make a difference."

To make the point, the ad hoc group plans an informational rally at noon and 4 p.m. Thursday at Government Center "to let the politicians know we expect them to keep their word and put the arena where they originally intended it," said Lyn Gibbs, his wife, who kept track of sign-in sheets and promised attendees a phone call.

Mr. Gibbs said he did not invite Mayor Carty Finkbeiner or City Council members or county commissioners on purpose.

"We've got to stick with this one issue - keeping the arena at the Marina," said Mr. Gibbs, a reference to the slogan used to attract those who want a new or renovated sports arena in the proposed east riverfront Marina District, "Keep the Arena at the Marina."

Voters on Sept. 11, 2001, overwhelmingly approved an exemption to city law in order to permit city spending on an arena in the Marina District. Most recently, Mr. Finkbeiner and county Commissioner Peter Gerken have backed building a downtown arena instead.

The lone dissenting voice at the meeting, Debra Reddish, said that voters actually approved city funding for infrastructure to support an arena, not specifically for an East Toledo location.

"Yes, we all want it there," said Ms. Reddish, daughter-in-law of the late Max Reddish, who ran an East Toledo sporting goods store and was a city councilman and county commissioner.

She said the land on which the Toledo Sports Arena sits could not support a larger structure.

"If the powers that be want it, they're going to build it wherever they want it," she said.

But others said the clear intention of voters was for an east side arena.

Kathy Steingraber, executive director of the Toledo Warehouse District Association, said she walked with Mr. Finkbeiner in the campaign before the 2001 vote, and they told people the facility would be in East Toledo.

"If it was not technically correct, philosophically and morally it is correct" to build an arena on the east side, said Ms. Steingraber, of Oregon, who said she was speaking as a private citizen.

John Fye of East Toledo, a carpenter with Local 1138, said he and other east siders would find work building an arena. An east side arena makes practical sense too.

"The east siders have the real estate. We own the river," Mr. Fye said. "Everybody has to own up to that."

Ron Mauter of Oregon presented a resolution, approved by acclamation, to register the group's objection to "a well-thought-out scheme by city and county fathers to bypass the voice of the voters."

The resolution reiterates that a new or rebuilt Sports Arena should be part of the Marina District.



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