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Published: Thursday, 1/25/2007

Demolition work for arena likely to begin in summer

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Demolition to make room for a new multipurpose arena in downtown Toledo could start as early as summer to ensure the facility is open by fall 2009, Lucas County officials said yesterday.

County commissioners announced yesterday that they were reuniting the team of architects and construction manager hired to build Fifth Third Field as the key players in a projected $80 million arena.

The commissioners announced their choices yesterday during a news conference held in the Toledo Design Center, where they also introduced SMG of Philadelphia, the management group chosen to operate the arena.

With the team assembled, officials said the county was ready for the project's next step - designing the arena, which is planned for a site near Superior Street and Jefferson Avenue.

"We've come a long way since announcing this project," Commissioner Pete Gerken said, adding that he expects to see both demolition and construction start this year.

"Construction activity absolutely in '07," Mr. Gerken said.

Tom Tingle, vice president of HNTB Architecture Inc., which was selected to lead the architecture team, said working on the arena is giving his company "a chance to complete the puzzle" started with Fifth Third Field.

HNTB, based in Kansas City, partnered with Toledo-area architectural firms The Collaborative Inc. and Poggemeyer Design Group to design Fifth Third Field.

The three firms will once again work together, along with construction manager The Lathrop Co., to build the arena.

Although the county has not yet negotiated contracts with the companies, Mr. Gerken said that finalizing deals with the firms is the next step.

Mr. Tingle said the groups will then convene to brainstorm about design ideas as well as soliciting input from the public.

"We do not have any preconceived design thoughts," he said.

County officials have said they hope to fill the multipurpose arena with big-name concerts and, perhaps, arena football and minor-league hockey.

In August, Lucas County leaders announced the Toledo Mud Hens' management as official agent for securing ice hockey and arena football franchises - teams that officials hope to announce in the next three or four months.

Joe Mazur, a senior general manager at SMG, said his company already is talking about Toledo to promoters and that the company will work to fill the arena and convention center with concerts, shows, and conventions "as soon as contracts are signed."

Saying that the company is involved in more than 200 facilities around the world, Mr. Mazur said that SMG will use its network to "get Toledo on the map."

"You don't need the bricks and mortar to be finished in order to sell it," he said.

SMG serves as the facility operator for the Van Andel Arena and DeVos Convention Center in Grand Rapids, Mich.; Nationwide Arena, where the National Hockey League's Columbus Blue Jackets play, and the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

Bill Jennison, executive director of the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, said the group has been "absolutely thrilled" with SMG's performance.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-724-6076.



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