Rossford scores coup; $48 million project includes arena for pro hockey team, amphitheater

By Joshua Benton and Michael D. Sallah
Blade Staff Writers

Page 1

Promising a $48 million investment in the region, Rossford officials announced plans to build an arena and amphitheater complex yesterday that likely will house a professional hockey team and could become the premier entertainment destination in northwest Ohio.

The facility, to be in the “Golden Triangle” at I-75 and the Ohio Turnpike, would be home to the American Hockey League affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings. The team is in upstate New York.

“This is a success story for all of northwest Ohio,” said Rossford Mayor Mark Zuchowski.

The complex would pose a serious threat to the Toledo Storm, the Red Wings’ East Coast Hockey League affiliate, which has played at the aging Toledo Sports Arena in East Toledo since 1991.

And, it would hurt Toledo’s downtown revitalization plans, which counted on increased activity at the Sports Arena to draw people downtown.

Sports Arena officials have been planning major renovations of the drab, 52-year-old concrete building for years but were stymied by a legal fight between the Storm’s previous owners.

Improvements have been discussed for more than three years, but no progress has been made.

In a statement, Mayor Carty Fink beiner said he considered Rossford’s apparent victory “a good lesson for Toledo” and that it should serve as a wake-up call for Tim Gladieux, owner of the Storm and the Sports Arena.

“Tim Gladieux plans to build a new Sports Arena, and that promise is long overdue,” Mr. Fink beiner said. “The city of Toledo has promised to help him. It is time for him to deliver!”

The biggest remaining hurdle for Rossford is whether it can close a deal with the Red Wings.

Without a team for the arena, the project likely would not be built, Mr. Zuchowski said.

“There are a few pieces left in the puzzle,” he said.

The proposed Rossford facility will be managed by Olympia Entertainment, Inc., a company owned by pizza magnate Mike Illitch, who owns the Red Wings and the Detroit Tigers.

The move of the Adirondack Red Wings would mean both of Mr. Il litch’s teams would have their top minor-league affiliates in Toledo. The Toledo Mud Hens are the Triple-A farm team of the Tigers.

The arena would feature 9,200 seats for hockey games, 10,500 for basketball games, and 12,000 for concerts. Next door would be a 15,000-seat open-air amphitheater to rival the Pine Knob Music Theatre near Clarkston, Mich.

The complex would be financed by floating about $48 million in bonds, to be issued by the Rossford Arena Amphitheater Authority. Rossford city council created the authority Monday night.

Yesterday’s announcement was made nearly eight years after the Rossford Economic Growth Corporation, a public-private partnership, began exploring development possiblities for the area, which is considered one of the most desirable in the Midwest because of its location.

Mr. Gladieux said the prospect of a competitor to the south will not stop his plans to renovate the Sports Arena or build one.

“Our plans are to keep going with our plans,” he said. Ground breaking for the new Sports Arena could happen this fall, he added.

But hockey and economic development authorities said the Toledo area probably would not be able to support two minor-league hockey teams.

“Other cities, like Cincinnati, have two hockey teams, but they’re very few,” said Gary Wyse, general manager of the Sports Arena.

“I think it would be extremely difficult for this market to have two successful hockey franchises,” said Don Jakeway, president of the Regional Growth Partnership.

Mayor Zuchowski said Rossford is negotiating with the Red Wings to attract the AHL franchise to the arena, but he said no agreement has been finalized.

Red Wings spokesman John Hahn confirmed that negotiations were under way. Sources in the AHL and NHL confirmed that the two sides were on the verge of a deal to bring the team to Rossford.

It is unclear whether the team would use Toledo or Rossford in its name.

The American Hockey League is the top player-development league in hockey; its players are regularly called up to parent teams in the National Hockey League. Goaltender Chris Osgood and wingers Darren McCarty and Martin La pointe are among current Red Wings standouts who played at the team’s AHL affiliate.

In contrast, the ECHL is at the bottom of the minor-league ladder. Only two former Storm players are believed to have spent time in the NHL.

The 60-acre arena-and-amphitheater site will be the centerpiece of the “Crossroads of America” development, a leisure, retail, and business complex at the I-75 and I-80/90 intersection, Mr. Zuchowski said. Eventually, the project will include 1,200 acres.

On Monday night, the arena authority will meet to buy the 60 acres, which is under option by the Rossford Economic Growth Corporation.

The arena would be a major boon for Rossford, but for Toledo city officials, and downtown redevelopment efforts, the development is not good news.

“I would suspect that if the Sports Arena had been rebuilt already, this project wouldn’t have taken place,” said council President Peter Ujvagi.

Mr. Jakeway said delays in getting the Sports Arena renovated have allowed other proposals, like Rossford’s, to move forward.

“In hockey, as in all sports, there is competition,” he said. “And you can’t just debate. You have to do.”

If built, the arena would be “a perfect match” for the Mid-American Conference basketball tournament, Mr. Zuchowski said. MAC officials recently announced they would move the annual event from Toledo to Cleveland.

The announcement of the arena is the latest in several proposals for the site in the heart of what is known as the Golden Triangle south of Toledo.

In 1992, developer Brian Mc Mahon talked to then-Governor Voinovich about the possibility of trying to attract a Disney park to the area.

Two years later, the growth partnership hired a Florida consulting team to come up with various uses for the property, including entertainment and theme park possibilities.

In 1997, Bowling Green lawyer Bill Caughey tried to lure the Ottawa Indian tribe of Oklahoma to this area to start a super bingo and souvenir center that would attract people from miles around.

But news of the efforts for that project reached the governor, who wrote letters to federal officials asking them to turn down any such application.

Two years ago, the private-public partnership tried to entice the Storm and its then-owner, Barry Soskin, to move the team to the land controlled by the Rossford group.

At the time, Mr. Soskin was in a standoff with the Gladieux family over improvements the team owner said were needed at the Sports Arena.

Mr. Soskin said at the time he was “willing to consider other options,” but he later said he favored a downtown Toledo site and was willing to stay in the same facility as long as it was renovated.

Last year, Mr. Soskin sold the team to Mr. Gladieux and five other business leaders.

When he was considering the purchase, Mr. Gladieux specifically asked Red Wings officials whether they were planning to bring another minor-league team into the Toledo market.

“They said they weren’t going to do it,” Mr. Gladieux said. “I’m not sure why they had a change of heart.”

He said yesterday he heard about the possible move through the media, not from the Red Wings.

“We’re a little surprised by the announcement,” he said. “We’re pretty far along with our planning process, and we’re planning to go forward.”

Toledo’s city coffers stand to benefit from development in the Golden Triangle.

The area is part of a joint economic development zone among Toledo, Rossford, and Perrysburg Township. Toledo provides water and sewer services to the land, fewer than four miles from downtown Toledo.

As a result, Toledo would receive 0.651 per cent of the payroll generated in the area.

Mr. Zuchowski estimated that, once the Crossroads area is completely developed, the tax could bring up to $500,000 a year to Toledo.

Mr. Zuchowski said Mr. Mc Mahon has been involved in the arena project since its inception, but mostly in acquiring properties for retail use. He is not involved in the arena or amphitheater, the mayor said.

The Adirondack Red Wings play at the Civic Center in Glens Falls, N.Y., a city of 17,000. Attendance this year has hovered around 3,500 fans a game, 16th out of 19 AHL teams.

In recent years, the AHL has created franchises in major cities such as Cincinnati and Louisville.

In contrast, the Storm attracts about 4,800 fans per game, one of the stronger performers in the ECHL.

Mr. Gladieux said the younger ECHL players play a more aggressive, less polished style of hockey that has helped attracted thousands of local fans to the Sports Arena.

“The play is more conducive to more mistakes, more excitement than in the AHL,” he said. “We can offer lower ticket prices and family entertainment.”

Tickets for Storm games range from $7.50 to $12. For games at Glens Falls, tickets range from $8.50 to $11.50.

Mr. Gladieux said plans for the renovations or new construction will be set within 120 days.

By that time, work on the Rossford arena should be under way. In fact, workers are clearing the land where the arena is to be built.

Blade sports writer Dave Woolford contributed to this report.

Housing construction booms in Toledo

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 1

When 77-year-old Bob Swartout was looking to move to a new, smaller house, he didn’t want to leave Toledo and head for the suburbs.

“I’d rather be around where things are happening,” he said. “When you’re on the outskirts, you’ve got a ways to go to get anywhere.”

Instead, Mr. Swartout and his wife, Phyllis, soon will be moving into Glengate, Toledo’s newest single-family housing development at Glendale and Detroit avenues.

“When I heard it was being built in the city, that was enticing,” said Mr. Swartout, a retired Toledo building inspector.

City officials are thrilled to see developers interested in building within the city limits. And they expect 1999 to be a banner year for new Toledo housing.

The city projects that 990 housing units will be opened in Toledo this year, more than twice the 1998 total and more than 15 times the number five years ago.

“The numbers have really gone up, and there is a very strong interest in living in the city limits,” said Deborah Younger, the city’s acting housing commissioner.

Most of that growth will be in a few large projects, such as the Commodore Perry Apartments and the Hillcrest Apartments. Those two buildings are a major part of the city’s downtown redevelopment plans. Each will feature more than 100 units when renovations are completed this year.

But the growth has spread to smaller projects by community development corporations, and subdivision developments such as Glengate.

Glengate will feature 52 single-family homes, which will sell from $140,000 to $160,000 each. Cavalear Corp. of Sylvania is the developer on the $8 million project.

“We wanted to have something for the market of people currently living in Toledo who don’t want to move to the suburbs,” said Ray Henderson, Cavalear’s sales manager. “It’s for people who don’t want to drive 20 miles to get a gallon of milk.”

Cavalear bought the 16-acre site from the city of Toledo a year ago for $425,000. At the time, the site was being used as a soccer field.

Mr. Henderson said he expects the homes to be sold primarily to retirees and physicians from the neighboring Medical College of Ohio.

About half of the 52 homes should be completed by the end of 1999, he said, with the remainder to be finished by fall, 2000.

Mr. Swartout and his wife were the first to buy at Glengate. With their children grown, they wanted to move out of their Darlene Street home and into a smaller place.

Mr. Swartout considered a new home in Monclova Township but decided “that was just too far away.”

Ms. Younger said that more and more people are thinking that way and choosing city life over suburbia.

Although much of the increase in new city housing stock can be attributed to a strong economy that is creating more Toledo jobs, she said a lifestyle choice is involved.

“There’s a revived interest in living in an urban center,” she said. “People are tired of driving. They want to be closer to the heart of the city, where the activity is.”

The numbers bear her out. In 1994, only 60 housing units opened in the city. That total has risen steadily ever since, to 409 last year.

Last week, work began on 49 homes just north of downtown. Rather than carving a subdivision out of a field, the new homes will be integrated into the NorthRiver neighborhood, Toledo’s oldest.

They will be rented to low and moderate-income families by the NorthRiver Development Corp.

Many of those homes are being built in the holes left by the city’s demolition program, which has razed 1,422 abandoned buildings since 1994, including 314 last year.

“That has helped the numbers a lot,” Ms. Younger said. “Obviously, our challenge for 2000 and beyond will be to replicate or increase those numbers.”

The Glengate deal stirred up controversy a year ago that led to a personnel change at city hall. After the city announced it would sell the land to Cavalear, Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner learned of a supposed deed restriction on the property that prevented it from being sold to a private developer.

Angered by the apparent mistake, Mr. Finkbeiner cut the pay of five city officials he considered responsible.

The biggest pay cut fell on then-housing commissioner James Thurston, whose annual salary was chopped $2,000.

Disgusted by what he considered the mayor’s overreaction to “a manageable problem,” Mr. Thurston quit.

A week later, further analysis showed that the supposed deed restriction did not exist, and no hurdles prevented selling the land. Mr. Finkbeiner eventually reinstated the salaries of the four remaining city employees.

But Mr. Thurston did not return. Ironically, he did much of the development work – on projects such as the Commodore Perry and the Hillcrest – that should make 1999 a great year for Toledo housing.

Since then, the housing department has been managed by acting commissioners.

Finkbeiner slashes Reams’ salary; Neighborhood chief loses $8,000 for not meeting mayor’s standards

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner shaved $8,000 from the salary of the city’s director of neighborhoods yesterday because Anthony Reams has not been meeting the mayor’s standards in his job performance.

“Tony Reams is someone I have a lot of affection for, and I want Tony to be a very successful person, but he needs to pick up the pace assertively,” the mayor said.

Mr. Finkbeiner would not discuss any specific problems with Mr. Reams’s performance, but he said he has not “been a visionary” and has not done as much as possible to “bring home the bacon” from federal and state government.

As neighborhoods director, Mr. Reams oversees housing developments and some elements of the Jeep plant expansion. He has had the job since October, after Paul Hubbard resigned to open a Toledo office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Mr. Reams has been public service director, city staff manager, commissioner of streets, bridges, and harbor, and chief operating officer. His salary is $80,000 a year.

“The only comment I have is that the mayor was unhappy on the progress of a couple of projects, and he cut my salary,” he said.

In his two terms in office, the mayor has cut the pay of at least 10 top officials to discipline them. Two – executive officer Tom Crothers and housing commissioner James Thurston – quit after the mayor docked their pay.

Mr. Finkbeiner defended his record of using money to motivate employees. He said he has raised 14 workers’ salaries since Jan. 1, and his pay cuts get more attention than they should. He said he uses pay cuts as a last resort to motivate people he feels aren’t doing their best.

“I attempt to get their attention – in this case, by taking a few dollars out of some body’s pocket. Is Finkbeiner an ogre? No. Finkbeiner is one of the better motivators or taskmasters,” the mayor said.

Way to add officers suggested

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 17

Councilman Wade Kapszukiewicz has a plan he says will let the city add 15 police officers and stay within its budget.

Police Chief Michael Navarre said the plan is a smart one “that makes good sense.”

It involves the size of this year’s police class.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner’s proposed budget in November called for a 15-member class to begin this month to help replace the two dozen or more officers expected to retire this year. Nine officers have retired so far, and one has been fired.

Mr. Kapszukiewicz has suggested starting the police class later in the year, in July or August. Delaying the start date will result in fewer weeks of salary to pay, so the city could afford to pay more officers.

“We need to make providing for the public’s safety our priority, and this is a way to increase the officers on the street without busting the budget,” he said.

A class of 30 beginning Aug. 4 would cost the same as a class of 15 starting this month.

“I would strongly recommend that we postpone the class,” Chief Navarre said. “That makes good sense.”

Mr. Kapszukiewicz is seeking election to the seat to which he was appointed in January. His opponent is Republican Nick Wichowski, a former mayoral candidate.

Mayor: Schools pay up or police go; $385,000 is half of cost for officers

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner will yank police officers out of Toledo schools unless the school district pays the city $385,000, he said last night.

“When school lets out in May or June, that’ll be the end of the police in the schools,” the mayor said. “When school starts in September, they won’t be there.”

The mayor’s comments were the latest salvo in the ongoing battle between the cash-strapped city and Toledo Public Schools.

As a keystone of its community policing program, the city’s police department stations an officer in each of Toledo’s high schools and junior highs. The program, begun in 1994 under then Chief Gerald Galvin, has been a resounding success, city and school leaders said. “I don’t think there’s anybody who wants to see this program end,” said Councilman Louis Escobar.

Searching for ways to reduce costs, Mr. Finkbeiner in October sent a terse letter to Merrill Grant, school superintendent, saying that the city no longer is willing to pay for the program. It costs the city about $770,000 a year; he insisted that the school board pay half the amount, or $385,000.

School board President Terry Glazer told city council members yesterday that will not happen.

“We will not pay for the officers,” he said. “It’s part of the city’s community policing program, and I’m not going to take money away from teachers or the classrooms.”

Mr. Glazer said the school board’s budget will be tight in coming years. “Our priority is educating our students, and we’re going to put our resources toward that priority, not performing a basic city function like policing.”

He said city officials should begin looking for outside grants that could pay for the program.

Council members, who are preparing the city’s budget, have begun scrambling to find $385,000 somewhere in the police department’s budget for the program.

Police Chief Michael Navarre said it would be difficult to squeeze the money out of his budget, which is almost entirely personnel costs. Because of collective-bargaining agreements, it could be difficult to adjust those costs without layoffs.

“This could have an impact on whether we have a new police class. I’ll just have to decide the wisest use of the resources I have,” he said. “It’s very dis heartening.”

Mr. Finkbeiner acknowledged the good work the program has done in cutting crime and creating better relations between children and police. But he said in times of tight budgets, even good programs sometimes must face the axe.

The mayor previously said he had no plans to scrap the program.

“I think it’s terribly selfish of Terry Glazer and the Toledo Public Schools board and terribly selfish of Merrill Grant,” the mayor said. “They need to realize the officers are there only out of the generosity of Finkbeiner, Galvin, and Toledo city council.

“As far as I’m concerned, there won’t be a program.”

Councilwoman Wilma Brown, who heads the public safety committee, said it doesn’t make sense that he would want to kill a program that is working so well.

“I think there’s enough people on council to save it,” she said. “He’s not going to do it, not if I can help it. I don’t know where we’ll find the money, but we’ll find it.”

The council is expected to approve the city budget at its meeting next Tuesday or March 16, and it has until then to find funding.

All signs point to renewed vitality and growth in area

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page A13 (Focus edition)

The rest of the country finally figured it out.

We here in Toledo always knew we lived in an All-America City. Aside from that occasional blizzard, this is a great place to live, plain and simple.

So when a jury in Mobile, Ala., decided last June to put the All-America stamp on our fine town, it just made it official.

Observers of the United States have always said our country is about rebirth: the second chances it gives, the ways it lets people start anew, with a new image and a new energy.

So it makes perfect sense that Toledo – that shape-changer that has been struggling to be reborn for what seems like decades – is All-America.

We’ve become quite good at reusing the reminders of past glory, the leftovers that 10 or 20 years ago would have just been torn down.

There’s COSI, the ultra-popular children’s science museum on the waterfront downtown. It’s in a building, Portside, that once symbolized the very failures of Toledo’s past that COSI is pushing beyond.

And when Chrysler needed to find a new place to build a Jeep plant, they picked an old place: the Stickney Avenue plant. DaimlerChrysler’s $1.2 billion investment in the plant means that Toledo sports one of the 10 largest construction projects in the country this year.

In 1999, the recycling will continue. Two old downtown hotels, the once-wrecking-ball-bound Hillcrest and the Commodore Perry, will both open their doors to apartment tenants; the Perry has already had a few trickle in after renovation.

The Valentine Theatre, once the centerpiece of downtown life, will finish a multi-million-dollar renovation and raise its curtain once again in October.

The old Civic Auditorium, which now houses the Erie Street Market, will add an antique mall and perhaps a sports bar.

And an old city building in International Park will become the center of Toledo’s dining life, as four restaurants and a banquet hall join the Navy Bistro in a development that will add even more energy to the booming East Toledo entertainment district.

All the progress hasn’t gone unnoticed. After decades of bleeding, people have stopped leaving Toledo. Area governments project that the 2000 census will show that the city actually gained people in the second half of the 1990s – the first population gain in the city limits since the 1960s. This year, Toledo will add more new homes than it has in more than 20 years. The suburbs are still growing in leaps, too, meaning the metro area is very healthy.

Toledo has always been a great place for families: nice neighborhoods, low crime, and Midwestern values. But young people have always had one big complaint: it’s boring. There’s just not much to do after 6 p.m.

That may be changing. Toledo is not Chicago or New York, and one of its traditional selling points (“It’s only an hour from Ann Arbor and Detroit!”) remains as critical as ever, but there are a few new nightspots going up that are encouraging. We’ve got an arts cinema now in southwest Toledo, so there’s less need to go to Michigan for that. Downtown is getting art galleries, new restaurants, and more people.

The city’s administration is try ing its best to turn downtown into the place to be for young professionals, and judging from the people who haunt places like Sufficient Grounds or the LaSalle Apartments, it’s working.

More downtown developments aimed at twenty- and thirtysomethings are coming in 1999, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner says. If the mayor gets his way, that’ll include starting construction on a downtown baseball stadium, a new home for the Toledo Mud Hens.

The economy is as strong as it’s been in decades. Unemployment is barely an issue. A merger in the nursing-home industry brought Toledo a new Fortune 500 company, HCR ManorCare, which is our first corporate giant not based primarily on heavy industry. Just as important, HCR will move its headquarters into the Summit Center downtown, filling another hole in the skyline.

Admittedly, a lot of the economic success of the region is based on the economic success of the na tion. But Toledo governments have actually done quite a good job of marketing the region to companies around the world. From frozen-food makers to African flower vendors, they’re all coming to Toledo.

Companies are starting to realize that our location – a port on the Great Lakes, a railroad center, an air cargo hub, and the intersection of three of the country’s longest interstates – makes Toledo a perfect spot for new development.

Some of that development has been controversial. Drug store chains such as Rite Aid are tearing down some old buildings to build boxy, cookie-cutter stores, which only contributes to one of Toledo’s biggest problems: the bland stretches of fast-food restaurants and retail that make the city indistinguishable from a thousand other cities. Citizens fought to stop a new Home Depot store on Secor Road, but couldn’t win at the ballot box.

And, with the acres and acres of asphalt parking we’ve got to look at on every corner, it’s not exactly city beautiful. But the city is promising to find ways to change zoning rules to stop some of this development.

But if Toledo’s most controversial problems revolve around improper drug store placement and where to put new multi-million-dollar stores, we’re doing just fine.

It’s a cliche: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Well, Toledo wasn’t ever quite at death’s door, but the crisis mentality of the 1980s is over. Toledoans can look forward to new projects that will make the city a measurably better place to live in 1999. Almost all the signals are going in the right direction.

City union offers cut in health benefits

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

Toledo’s largest union of city employees has preemptively volunteered to cut its own health-care coverage as a bargaining chip in this spring’s contract negotiations.

The changes, most of which require city workers to pay a bigger part of their health-care costs, will save the city more than $1 million a year, officials project. In turn, union officials hope it will save them from other, deeper cuts in their benefits.

“They’ll have to take this into consideration when the contract talks start,” said George Tucker, regional director of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Ohio Council 8.

AFSCME’s Local 7, whose 900 members make it the largest union of city employees, approved the changes last week. Its contract expires June 30, and Mayor Carty Finkbeiner has said repeatedly that the city’s labor costs need to be reduced to solve a budget crunch.

The health-care changes will apply to AFSCME Local 2058, which is made up of city supervisors and which approved the measure on Tuesday.

Among the changes:

* All employees must choose their doctors from a list of insurance-approved physicians. A worker who chooses a doctor not on the list will have to pay 20 per cent of the bill.

Marsha Serio, the city’s human resources director, said more than 80 per cent of Toledo doctors will be on the list. But she said that some employees will have to change doctors or face extra costs. A similar caregiver list will be created for mental health services.

* Families will pay a $200 deductible instead of $100, as well as a $10 co-payment for all office visits and a $25 fee for some emergency-room trips.

* Prescription costs will rise from $1 to $2 for generic-brand drugs, and from $4 to up to $8 for brand-name drugs.

Ms. Serio said the union’s current health-care plan is “very rich and broad in scope” and that the city spent $17 million last year on employee health care.

“We know where hospitalization costs are going, and they’re going way up. We wanted to help the city save money,” Mr. Tucker said.

He said the move was “definitely” a response to fears that the city would ask for even bigger cuts when Local 7’s con tract expires.

“I think coming up with some kind of agreement in midterm shows that we are committed” to fruitful negotiation, he said.

City council must vote to approve the changes.

If the changes are applied to all AFSCME employees and all exempt employees, the city would save more than $1.2 million a year, Ms. Serio said.

If they were applied to all city employees, the savings could top $2 million per year.

She did not say if the city would ask for similar concessions from other unions. “The city is always looking for ways to reduce health-care costs. … This agreement is a measure of how important those costs are to the city.”

No date has been set for the start of Local 7’s contract talks, but Ms. Serio said they could begin next month.

Rocking in from Canada; Band making inroads with U.S. fans

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 37

It comes about 68 seconds into the song, a new single from Toronto-based Sloan, and it’s a moment that let’s you understand this most remarkable of bands.

The song, “Money City Maniacs,” starts off with sirens and crunchy guitar riffs, then propels into a killer rock backbeat. It’s next to impossible to avoid bobbing your head. The first couple of verses go by, and then it’s time for the chorus:

And the joke is/ when he awoke his/

body was covered in Coke fizz.

Huh?

“We wrote that song on stage in front of 10,000 people,” says guitarist Jay Ferguson. “Patrick [Pentland, the guitarist] started playing the riff and somebody just made up the words to fit the rhythm. You know, when Paul McCartney wrote ‘Yesterday,’ he called it ‘Scrambled Eggs,’ because ‘Scrambled Eggs’ fit the rhythm and it was something to sing until he changed it to something that made sense.

“Unfortunately, we never changed ours.”

There, in a nutshell, is what has made Sloan one of the best pop bands performing today: a Beatles reference, a sense of humor, and a killer song. With those in hand, a band can conquer the world, or at least Canada.

Sloan has spent the 1990s as quite possibly the biggest band in our neighbor to the north. How big? Big enough to sell out 40,000-seat arenas in Toronto. Big enough to start minor riots during in-store appearances in Vancouver. Big enough for the Canadian music magazine Chart to issue four commemorative covers when their latest record, “Navy Blues,” came out. Big enough for “Navy Blues” to go gold in only three weeks.

The band’s attempts at conquering America have turned out about as well as their country’s did in the War of 1812. But that’s, quite frankly, America’s fault: Sloan’s mix of smart songwriting, irresistable hooks, and general sweetness should be a natural.

Some of Sloan’s biggest American successes have come in Ohio, which is essentially Lower Canada for their purposes. The airwaves of Canadian radio extend over Lake Erie; In Toledo, listeners of Windsor station CIMX-FM 88.7 have gotten a pretty steady dose of Sloan for the last five or six years.

The lucky Americans who know about Sloan border on the maniacal in their devotion. “We get fans who drive 20 hours to come to our shows,” Ferguson says. “We see a lot of the same faces at our shows in Detroit, Cleveland, Dayton, Columbus, Toledo.”

At the band’s last Toledo show, in September, the Main Event was packed with fans, and just about every last one knew the words to every last song.

Sloan appears tonight at 9 at the Main Event. Opening acts will be Jr. Electric and the Deadly Snakes. Tickets are $10 in advance.

The band’s mainstream success in Canada has given them something usually reserved for superstars: artistic freedom. “We don’t have to make the same record over and over again to please radio or somebody at a label,” Ferguson says. “We’ve built enough of a following in Canada that our fans will accept the kind of record we give them.”

They’ve certainly been all over the map in their four releases. Their first record was straightforward, although especially good, “alternative” music. Their follow-up, 1994’s breakthrough “Twice Removed,” is as close to pure pop music as they’ve come. “One Chord to Another” (1997) was a blast of 1960s allusions, with Chicago-style trumpets and Beatlesy backbeats.

And “Navy Blues” sounds like it could have been 1972’s Record of the Year, with its crunchy glam guitars and its hard-rock posing.

“To go back to the Beatles, ‘Rubber Soul’ was a very different record from ‘Revolver,’ which was a very different record from ‘Sgt. Pepper,'” Ferguson says. “And the White Album is another left turn. We’re like that in that we don’t want to just keep pumping out B-plus versions of our last C-minus album.”

Sloan’s four members – Ferguson, Pentland, bassist Chris Murphy, and drummer Andrew Scott – all sing and write songs, and the different voices come across clearly on record. Considering how much of an obvious influence The Beatles are on their sound, it was only a matter of time before somebody compared the Fab Four to the Canuck Quartet.

“I’ve heard that Andrew is John, the natural, the genius, the non-methodical thinker,” Ferguson says. “Chris is Paul, the guy who wants everybody to get along. Patrick is the quiet George. And I guess that leaves me with Ringo.”

For the record, Ferguson doesn’t like the Beatles comparisons. But the four personalities have let fans on the Internet and at concerts focus on their favorite Sloan. “I think it’s great. It’s like with Kiss, where some kid could think, ‘Paul Stanley’s lame, but Ace Frehley-he’s cool.”

There won’t be any makeup on stage tonight, but could it be that a Sloan Army isn’t far off? Lesser bands have invaded America successfully.

Toledo turnaround still a way away; Population numbers prompt optimistic forecast from city officials

By Joshua Benton and Michael D. Sallah
Blade Staff Writers

Page 1

Toledo’s population finally may be back on the rise, but it may be decades before the area can recover from the damage done during the last 30 years.

“Toledo has sustained significant losses,” said Glenn King, a senior analyst with the Census Bureau. “It can take a long time to reverse that trend. For most cities, it can take years.”

Other “Rust Belt” cities have had a head start. They’ve used the economic boom of the 1990s to grow back some of what they lost in the rough years. But Toledo just kept losing people, census figures show.

Monday’s Census Bureau report, which projected a slight increase in the Toledo metro area’s population, created excitement among area leaders. Mayor Carty Finkbeiner called a news conference at which he proclaimed his office had “taken care of business.”

But the true depth of Toledo’s problems might require huge efforts from city officials, business leaders, and citizens. Consider:

* The slight boost predicted for the second half of the 1990s – perhaps one or two thousand people, although census officials are not making any estimates – would still leave Toledo deep in the hole for the decade.

Between 1990 and 1996, the most recent statistics available, Toledo lost 15,337 people. That’s 4.6 per cent of its population. And that’s on top of losses of 21,692 in the 1980s and 28,427 in the 1970s. Toledo has lost more than one-sixth of its population in the last 30 years.

* Toledo’s projected growth is well behind other similar cities. Twenty-three “Rust Belt” cities lost population in the 1980s. Of those, the situation of 22 improved in the early 1990s; either their losses decreased dramatically or they saw their populations rise again.

Metro Toledo was the one exception. It lost population in the early 1990s just as quickly as it did in the 1980s, 0.4 per cent over both periods.

While Toledo was shrinking, other Rust Belt cities were growing. The Cleveland-Akron metro area grew 1.7 per cent. The Canton area grew 2.2 per cent. The Detroit-Ann Arbor-Flint area grew 4.9 per cent.

That’s the kind of recovery that could be expected during the unprecedented economic boom of the last eight years. And in Toledo, the city’s most important industry – automotive – has been on a long upswing.

If Toledo lost people during a period of this much economic success, some ask, what will happen when the economy enters a downturn?

“We certainly could have done better” during the economic boom, said Dr. Samuel Aryeetey-Attoh, chairman of the University of Toledo’s geography and planning department, who has studied the economies of metropolitan areas. “Certainly, there’s a need to diversify and prepare for the future.”

He said that Toledo must focus on finding new industries, in areas like plastics and high technology, or risk economic trouble if the automotive industry faces a downturn.

“We saw the impact in the early 1980s, when you had Japanese competition,” he said. Other cities, like Portland, Raleigh, and Cleveland, have done a better of job of updating their economies than has Toledo.

Just about every economic indicator shows the region is poised for growth. Unemployment rates are down. Jobs are being created, from large projects like the Jeep plant to smaller businesses. Housing starts are rising in Toledo and its suburbs.

Area leaders at the mayor’s news conference blamed the negative numbers on a slow-starting economic recovery. Other cities, they said, had a headstart.

“Places like Cleveland have been rebuilding since 1980,” said Don Jakeway, president of the Regional Growth Partnership. “Toledo is just starting to reach its peak now.”

“We got a late start at this urban renaissance,” the mayor said, adding that the real start was 1994, when he took office. “We’re still relatively young within the rebound. Others may have reached their peak and leveled off.”

Mr. Finkbeiner said that “prophets of doom” who predicted a continued decline were out of line, and that a growing population is the key to success.

“Our single biggest need in northwest Ohio is to increase our population base,” he said. “It isn’t to stay stable. It’s to grow.”

Toledo isn’t the only part of Ohio that has sustained the loss of people. Statewide, Ohio trails the rest of the country in growth, which has had a significant impact on the state’s standing in the nation’s capital.

When congressional seats are reapportioned after the 2000 census, Ohio is projected to lose a seat, dropping its total to 18. In 1960, Ohio had 24 seats, behind only New York, California, and Pennsylvania. States in the West and South have achieved such enormous gains in population that they have taken congressional seats away from Ohio.

Money is also at stake in Ohio’s population numbers. Federal dollars are often tied to state and city population totals.

When the 2000 census is completed, for the first time since the Great Depression, Toledo won’t be one of America’s 50 largest cities. According to 1996 estimates, it is No. 53.

For the Toledo area to achieve sustained growth, officials said it must create a more highly trained, high-tech oriented work force,and get past Toledo’s image as a union town that’s bad for business.

Toledo has a highly skilled work force in its industrial sector, but it does not have a well educated one. Toledo has the smallest percentage of college graduates of any Ohio metropolitan area over 500,000.

In cities like Ann Arbor and Columbus, large universities provide the brainpower that leads to entrepreneurs and successful, growing businesses. Ann Arbor’s recent successes have had a large part in the Detroit area’s growth in the 1990s.

New UT president Vik Kapoor acknowledged that UT must do more to charge the area economy and said he wants to help establish a technology park to attract high-tech businesses.

“We want to be the center of technology for northwest Ohio,” Dr. Kapoor said. “That will create jobs. That is what happened to Ann Arbor.”

Dr. Kapoor said he will work with city leaders to encourage businesses to come to the UT area, just as automotive suppliers cluster around a new automotive plant. He said he would like to see professors doing research and earning patents in fields such as biotechnology, machining technology, and computer engineering. Students could then start up companies based on those technologies.

He said it would be critical to increase the quality of UT’s faculty if the university hopes to have the research capabilities necessary to spinoff businesses.

“We will be hiring excellent professors from outside the university who are at the state of the art, and we will be investing in our professors to get them to that level,” Dr. Kapoor said.

He said that will be a multi-million-dollar investment and that the university’s budget will be altered to allow for it.

Misconceptions about Toledo may stymie growth and companies choosing to move here.

The area is sometimes labeled as a strong union area that’s frequently hostile to management decisions – a rap that many in this area consider unfair and a trend from the past.

But the label has persisted, even if it’s not used as much as it was a decade ago.

“I think there are some false perceptions, and we are aware that people have felt that way,” Mr. Jakeway said. “The problem is: sometimes perception is worse than reality.”

He said recent alliances between labor and management, especially at Jeep, have set an entirely different trend.

“We have an enlightened labor climate that is so far different than 15 years ago,” he said. “It’s [discouraging] to even hear these things.”

At yesterday’s news conference, Mr. Finkbeiner said he is trying to build the region’s population base by establishing a solid core downtown. He said that the trend of renovating older downtown buildings into apartments is a good start.

“In 1993, there were maybe 50 people living downtown,” he said. “We are starting to bring people back.”

In addition, 1,600 houses have been built or rehabilitated in the past five years, he said. All this will help keep more people in the city, he added.

In the early part of this century, Toledo could count on heavy immigration, mostly from eastern Europe, to pump up its population.

But the changing patterns of immigration have passed over Toledo. Immigrants in the 1990s are heavily Asian or Hispanic, and they tend to settle in states like California, Texas, and Florida.

Mr. Jakeway said he will remain cautious about the population numbers until the official census is complete in 2000.

“These are estimates, and while I’m pleased, I think it’s better to stand up and cheer when the count comes in,” he said.

Residents told they can pressure adult businesses

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

If North Toledo residents want to stop the spread of adult entertainment in their neighborhoods, they’ll have to take the initiative themselves, a group of concerned citizens concluded last night.

“There aren’t any Pied Pipers anymore to take the rats out of your city,” said Lora White, who has lived in the neighborhood near Telegraph Avenue and Alexis Road for 30 years. “You’ve got to do it yourself.”

Ms. White and about 25 others gathered at a preschool near the North Towne Square shopping center to discuss the growth of adult entertainment venues in the area. Democratic Councilman Wade Kapszukiewicz, who called the meeting, is running for election to the council seat he was appointed to in January. His opponent in the May 4 election is Republican Nick Wichowski, who lost a mayoral bid in 1997 to Carty Finkbeiner.

The Telegraph-Alexis area has nine adult establishments, Mr. Kapszukiewicz said, and District 6 has 13. They range from strip clubs and massage parlors to adult bookstores.

Neighbors said the numbers have risen sharply in the last three or four years.

The gathered citizens said the businesses cause a multitude of problems, from traffic concerns to moral issues.

“The parking lots are littered with beer cans, bottles, and broken glass, and the girls come outside in their skimpy clothes sometimes,” said Kim Iott, manager of Telegraph Road Central Travel, which is near a strip club.

Last night’s meeting was at My Little School, which is 524 feet from a strip club. City law prevents an adult business from being located within 500 feet of a school, church, or residential area.

When citizens and city leaders want to close an adult entertainment spot, they face dozens of legal barriers. U.S. courts have usually interpreted First Amendment freedoms to stop cities from shutting down stores purely because of the materials they sell.

“You can’t just zone somebody out of business,” senior city attorney John Madigan said.

As a result, cities have to use alternate methods – like the strict enforcement of building and health codes – to stop adult entertainment.

“When you can’t get to the source of the problem, you can get around it,” Mr. Madigan said. “There are other ways to shut down businesses you don’t like.”

He recommended that citizens become extra vigilant in filing complaints about adult businesses if they see any sort of violation, from litter in the area to beer drinking in a parking lot. If one location is the source of five to 10 complaints a week for a month or more, the city may have enough of a case to shut it down as a nuisance or as a threat to public safety.

Mr. Kapszukiewicz said he would ask police to monitor the area.