Describing the contract a much-needed first step, two Lucas County commissioners yesterday approved an agreement to begin development of a downtown arena.
Commissioners Pete Gerken and Tina Skeldon Wozniak approved a contract with Gateway Consulting Group and Pizzuti/Garfield Traub LLC.
The agreement, which Commissioner Maggie Thurber voted against, names the companies as the project's fiscal and management consultant and agrees to pay the consultants 4 1/2 percent of the total cost of the arena project.
The 26-page contract breaks the project into six phases.
The first phase, or arena action plan, will cost no more than $125,000 and includes preparing estimated construction costs, selecting the site, and determining how the project would be funded.
"It is never irresponsible to spend $125,000 to get to the bottom of finance questions before we make a $50 million to $70 million investment," Ms. Wozniak said. "Before any shovels are put into the ground to dig for an arena, this first step must be taken."
In addition to the arena action plan, four preconstruction phases are outlined in the contract, as are the percentages of the project budget dedicated to them.
The last phase, the construction phase, will take up 40 percent of the project budget.
Under the contract, the initial project budget is estimated at $80 million, a number Mr. Gerken called a "placeholder" that likely will be more than is needed.
A condition of the contract includes county approval at the end of each phase. For example, county commissioners must be satisfied that the initial information gathered about costs and funding before agreeing to move forward to the preconstruction phases of the project.
The consultant also is able to terminate the contract at that time.
"This contract is put together in phases and exits exist at every juncture of the agreement," Mr. Gerken said. "At this point, we're not taking a risk for the entire project."
In addition to identifying sites and funding sources, the first phase of the contract requires that the consultant develop a plan to identify tenants, confirm the feasibility of combining the arena with SeaGate Centre, and determine the size of the arena.
An early favorite site is near SeaGate Centre, from the former Owens Corning Fiberglas Tower across North Superior Street toward Frogtown Alley.
Ms. Thurber said she voted against the contract because it did not require a detailed market study.
A market study, which was recommended in an earlier impact study done for the city of Toledo, would give officials a better idea of how much business a new arena would bring in.
She also hoped more information would be gathered about how much new money a new arena would bring.
"I want the detailed direct market research that will tell us how many events, etc., our market will support," Ms. Thurber said. "Unless we have that, we won't have good information on which to base the decision."