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Published: Wednesday, 3/8/2006

Bond deal could bind Marina, arena plans

BY CHRISTOPHER D. KIRKPATRICK
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A downtown arena and an amphitheater for the east-side Marina District may be linked together in one big bond deal that would assure the projects live or die together, The Blade has learned.

Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken and Mayor Carty Finkbeiner agreed in a meeting yesterday that a downtown arena - estimated at between $50 million and $70 million - and the residential-and-retail Marina District project proposed on the east side of the Maumee River need to succeed together, Mr. Gerken said.

"It makes sense for us to explore combining the projects of the amphitheater and the arena. If you're going out for $60 million, maybe you can go out for

$65 million worth of bonds," Mr. Gerken said. Doing so, he added, would also save money.

Mr. Finkbeiner and his chief of staff, Bob Reinbolt, did not return calls yesterday.

Providing the marina project with a 5,000-seat amphitheater might soothe east-side pains over losing a new sports arena to downtown. And using the same bond issue would assure that the projects live or die together, Mr. Gerken said.

The discussion between the two leaders came a day after Mayor Finkbeiner boycotted a luncheon Monday at Fifth Third Field because of his concerns over a legislative move planned by state Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green).

The state legislator said he is planning to remove mention of the words "Marina District" from the state budget that reserves $7.5 million for a sports arena there. The move would free up the money for an arena at a downtown site - as many as five are under consideration - or anywhere local elected officials might decide.

The mayor, who has said he supports a downtown arena site, doesn't want the east-side project to lose the money.

Yesterday, Mr. Gerken said he met with Mr. Finkbeiner to smooth over the mayor's concerns.

"We've cleared the air. Carty and I met for an hour and a half," he said. "Only going up for a bond issue once, rather than twice, would save money and there would be procurement savings. [For example,] buying steel, the more you buy, the cheaper it is."

Mr. Finkbeiner's lunch boycott prompted Mr. Gardner to send a letter yesterday to the mayor.

"I am really surprised that The Blade reported that you boycotted the luncheon at the Roost yesterday. After all, legislators are told that if the $7.5 million is not available by the state for the arena project, it will not go forward," he wrote. "I want a new arena AND a thriving Marina District. We can have both in time."

Mr. Gardner said he knows of only one legislator from the Toledo-area delegation who is opposed to the language change - an apparent reference to State Rep. Peter Ujvagi, an East Toledo Democrat - which would allow the arena to be built wherever local officials want.

He also said the Marina District, which has received $6 million in state money for industrial cleanup, would be eligible for more capital improvement money during the next two-year budget process to begin in less than a year.

A downtown sports arena, which could host Toledo Storm hockey, Toledo Ice and other basketball games, possibly an Arena Football League team, concerts, and other events, has gained momentum.

In addition to the $7.5 million Mr. Gardner would redirect, Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz said Monday that his office would move ahead with up to $15 million in revenue bonds sales for a downtown arena, in much the same way former county Treasurer Ray Kest generated money for Fifth Third Field.

Mr. Gerken and fellow Democrat Tina Skeldon Wozniak, president of the Lucas County Commissioners, asked the business community at Monday's luncheon for financial support for the arena project, including buying future luxury sky boxes.

Mr. Gerken said he would be looking to state lawmakers for more money for the projects and that arguments over the $7.5 million should be put aside.

Contact Christopher D. Kirkpatrick

at: ckirkpatrick@theblade.com

or 419-724-6077.



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