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Mayor willing to offer tax incentives in $6M Marina District ice rink plan

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's office says he is excited about a proposed $6 million ice rink facility at the Marina District and would offer tax incentives to help the project.

The mayor declined to talk to The Blade about the idea or agree to answer questions about the potential first private investment for the project.

Attempts to lure private investment have limped along through two administrations and several high-profile let-downs, including the failure to attract Bass Pro Shops or another major retailer and the firing of master developer Pizzuti Cos. by Mr. Finkbeiner from the project.

Teresa Graven, who is the mayor's spokesman, said Mr. Finkbeiner wants an ice facility there, if a deal on tax incentives can be worked out.

"He's for an ice house. It's a great idea, if it can be done. Anything that brings people down here and provides good clean fun," she said.

"The need for ice time is at a premium, between figure skating and ice hockey. Trying to get ice time, it's tough. He recognizes the importance of it and the need."

Don Monroe, the mayor's coordinator for the 125-acre Marina District project and also the executive director of River East Economic Development Corp., said the rink proposal is modeled after one in Canton, Mich., that is a two-story building with exercise facilities, food and beverage, and two indoor rinks.

"From my experience, it's not real critical what the first investment is, other than it has to be compatible with the other things we have to do. Part of the Marina District includes hopes for additional entertainment and recreational facility and you would certainly not want the first use to be incompatible.

"What's critically important is to get the first development. I've learned if you don't have the first, then you don't get the third, fifth, or ninth down the road."

The ice facility could serve as a practice facility for The Storm, or another professional hockey team that could end up playing in a new downtown arena, if one is built. A downtown arena is in the planning phase.

Available from the city are various tax incentive programs that might apply, including a tax abatement on property improvements.

All of East Toledo is eligible for such tax abatements, which forgive property tax on improvements.

The county still collects property tax on the original land or other property that is improved.

"You don't give away the taxes you're already collecting," Mr. Monroe said.

"If people truly understood tax abatements, they wouldn't object to it. You're giving away something that doesn't exist yet."

Mr. Monroe would not reveal the identity of the group of investors, saying that the mayor's office did not have the proposal yet.

But Ms. Graven said Mr. Finkbeiner is reviewing a written proposal.

"There is a myriad of incentives available," Mr. Monroe said.

"It helps us create an attractive environment for people who are spending their money at risk."

There are at least two other ice rinks in the area nearby.

Tam O'Shanter Sports Inc. at 7060 Sylvania Ave. is owned by the city of Sylvania and leased to a private group.

And there is also a private one-rink operation at 1258 West Alexis Rd., called The Ice House, where the junior-B Toledo Cherokees play.

Ice House co-owner Ken Miller said a Marina District would be OK as long as it was only a one-rink facility.

Plans for two rinks there would draw business away from his operation, he said. He and his partners, Mike Bihn and Lee Lecman, have heard about the Marina proposal, he said.

Contact Christopher D. Kirkpatrick at: ckirkpatrick@theblade.com or 419-724-6077.

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