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Lucas County to ask city to vacate arena site

Before Lucas County officials can build a multipurpose arena in downtown Toledo, they know they have to have the land.

As part of the aggressive time- line to have an arena built and operating by the fall of 2009, county commissioners plan to submit an application to Toledo officials today asking for the city to vacate a portion of Superior Street and Frogtown Alley.

If the application is approved, Superior between Jefferson and Madison avenues would be shut down to make way for the $80 million arena.

It's just one of the steps necessary to guarantee a ground-breaking in September.

The county also has to finalize the purchase of several properties, demolish the buildings, and conduct environmental surveys.

"We have to start the clock now for a 2009 opening," Commissioner Pete Gerken said. "If it was a private company that wanted to build an $80 million headquarters in downtown Toledo, they'd have to go through the same process."

Council likely will take up the vacation application at its Tuesday agenda review meeting, during which it sets the Feb. 27 council agenda.

Over the next few months, and assuming it is approved along the way, the application would be reviewed by the Toledo Plan Commission, the council's zoning and planning committee, and the city's Board of Revision before council would take it up at its July 10 meeting, council President Rob Ludeman said. "At each stage, there is an opportunity for public input," he added.

Mr. Ludeman said the application is proof the county is moving forward quickly with its plans to build an arena to bring in concerts, family shows, and additional sports teams.

Though county officials have set a time line, they do not actually own the property where the arena will be built.

The Lucas County Improvement Corp., a countywide organization charged with economic development, has secured options on the properties identified as the arena site.

Mr. Gerken said the options, which expire periodically through the summer, equate to about $7.7 million in land purchases.

Learning from their experiences building Fifth Third Field, county officials decided to wait until the last minute to actually buy the land to avoid issues of rent and insurance, Assistant County Administrator Bridgette Kabat said.

Once the land is bought, businesses like Subway, Golden Lily Restaurant, and Club Bijou would be either displaced or possibly shut down.

Commissioner Ben Konop said the county has been in touch with those businesses to make the transition as easy as possible.

Some are considering other downtown locations, while others are looking to be a part of the new arena, which may have a retail and restaurant component on its street level.

"We're envisioning the arena to be not only an entertainment destination for concerts and sporting events, but an everyday destination for shopping and eating," he said. "We're committed to having the arena opened 365 days a year and become an important part of the fabric of the community."

Tina Skeldon Wozniak, president of the commissioners, said another important aspect of the project is having all the primary members of the construction team on board already.

Because the architect, construction manager, and facility operator have been identified, the partners can work together to make the process as seamless as possible, she said.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-724-6076.

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