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Published: 9/11/2007

Redesign helps new Toledo arena mesh with its surroundings

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The old Sports Arena in East Toledo has been reduced to a pile of rubble as the last bits of it are brought down by work crews.
The old Sports Arena in East Toledo has been reduced to a pile of rubble as the last bits of it are brought down by work crews.
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The Lucas County commissioners unveiled fresh drawings of the new downtown arena yesterday which showed a spectacular collaboration of glass, brick, and concrete surrounded by public gathering spots lined with trees.

The building, estimated to be about 300 feet wide and 400 feet long, also appeared to fit comfortably in its downtown Toledo location - which was a major goal according to the commissioners and others involved with the project.

"Downtown Toledo has a great architectural inventory," said Ray Micham, a partner with The Collaborative, Inc., one of two local architectural firms involved with the arena. "Just take Huron Street. You have the LaSalle building, Spitzer, Sky Bank, and the arena is the next building. [The arena] has to be able to hold its own."

Lucas County commissioners Pete Gerken, Tina Skeldon Wozniak, and Ben Konop, Toledo Mud Hens general manager Joe Napoli, and Mr. Micham spoke about the updated arena design yesterday at a news conference at Fifth Third Field.

Mr. Gerken, considered the lead commissioner for the arena project, said that while the designs presented yesterday are not final, they are complete and accurate portrayals of the project's direction.

He said the arena's final design should be completed within two weeks, and the building is still scheduled to open in the fall of 2009.

As for the price of the arena, projected at about $85 million, the commissioners said a final estimated cost for the project would not be available until designs and construction schedules are ready.

The drawings presented yesterday were solely of the arena's exterior. And the bulk of the presentation focused on the building's ability to mesh with its surroundings, which the commissioners said was consistently stressed as a priority by Lucas County residents during public meetings.

Set for construction at a site bounded by Madison Avenue, Jefferson Avenue, and Huron Street that spills onto a portion of Superior Street, the arena will have at least two public gathering points outside its walls.

Mr. Konop said one of the gathering spots, which will lead up to the building's Superior Street entrance, would be a plaza lined by trees and featuring a statue of the late jazz legend and Toledo native Art Tatum.

The other chief gathering spot, located in front of the arena's entrance on Huron Street and Jefferson Avenue, is envisioned as an area for food and beverage vendors that Mr. Konop said he hoped would be open even when the arena was empty.

"We're trying to make the arena a 365-day venue, a place to go even when there's no event inside it," Mr. Konop said. "We want it to enhance the city's streets as well as the community. We didn't want it to just be a big box in the middle of downtown."

Mr. Konop also said the commissioners envisioned a three-story video screen hanging over the entrance on Huron and Jefferson, giving the area a "Times Square feel."

Ms. Wozniak, president of the commissioners, heralded the design team's commitment to constructing a "green" or environmentally friendly arena.

She said this goal will be accomplished through passive solar features, high-efficiency light and plumbing fixtures, and a "cool roof" that will help reduce summer cooling costs, among other methods.

Ms. Wozniak also said designers are working to ensure storm water can be captured from the roof. The arena also will be located near a variety of public transportation options.

The design team for the arena primarily includes, but is not exclusive to, architectural firms HNTB, of Kansas City, and local firms The Collaborative and Poggemeyer Design Group.

This same collection of firms designed Fifth Third Field, and Mr. Napoli said their experience and expertise will benefit the arena project.

"With Fifth Third Field they raised the standard," Mr. Napoli said.

"This ballpark is widely interpreted as one of the best minor-league ballparks in the country, and that's certainly what we want to accomplish with the arena."

The commissioners also announced the launching of the arena's Web site, www.lucascountyarena.com, which will feature arena updates and two live Web cams monitoring construction.

Demolition at the arena site is ongoing, and construction is scheduled to begin in early October.

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com or

419-410-5055.



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