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Arena workers eager for debut

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Dan Lewandowski is one of about 175 part-time seasonal workers who will staff the Lucas County Arena for sports and entertainment events. Free opening events are scheduled this weekend.

The Blade/Andy Morrison
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It's been less than a year since Dan Lewandowski retired from Chrysler's Toledo Jeep Assembly complex, and he's enjoyed a summer full of fishing.

These days, though, with the Lucas County Arena about to open downtown, he has a bigger catch on his mind.

Mr. Lewandowski, 50, is one of what is expected to be more than 175 part-time seasonal workers who will staff the $105 million facility, and he's probably as excited about the place as anyone.

"I think the whole atmosphere is going to be a fun, family atmosphere," said the Oregon resident, who will be an usher. "It's all positives that are involved with it: I love sports. I love hockey. I thought it would be a perfect fit for me."

About 3,500 people waited in line for hours to apply for positions at the arena during a job fair earlier this month. Steve Miller, general manager of SMG, the firm that runs the arena, believes that more than just the poor economy may have played a role.

"It's kind of a fun thing to do, and you get paid to do it," he said. "I think that people are very excited about it. They do have the opportunity to watch the events. They also get the opportunity to take pride in the facility."

John Devalt, Jr., 52, senior crew leader who worked at the SeaGate Convention Centre, said he looks forward to the challenges and opportunities at the state-of-the-art arena with its quick turnaround between events.

"It's the biggest task I ever took hold of," the East Toledo man said.

"I never worked on ice before - I never even ice skated - but I'm all geeked up about it."

The venue will host comedian Jeff Dunham on Oct. 9, followed by So You Think You Can Dance Live Tour 2009 on Oct. 10 and the WWE Raw Live wrestling event on Oct. 11. The Toledo Walleye's first home hockey game in the arena will be Oct. 16.

But first will be this weekend's free opening event from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

David Guy, 45, of East Toledo, may have more reasons than most to look forward to the arena's opening. He worked at the former Toledo Sports Arena for 18 years beginning in the late 1980s, first as an usher and then taking tickets.

"I was sad when it closed because I got used to the people - the customers [who] would come in, the other employees - and it was a fun place to work," he said. "I'm really anticipating this opening."

Mr. Guy, who will be an usher, said he's hoping to reconnect with some of his old co-workers who may have made the move to the new arena with him.

Still, there's one thing in particular that he won't mind leaving behind if he can: the uniform.

"I just hope it's not a bow tie like the old arena," he said.

Contact Ryan E. Smith at:

ryansmith@theblade.com

or 419-724-6103.

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