By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer
Like a real estate agent showing off his favorite property, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner went downtown yesterday to show off where the Toledo Mud Hens want to build their dream home – and to convince voters that they should close the deal next month.
Atop the Radisson Hotel and alongside county leaders and downtown boosters, the mayor repeated his call for a baseball stadium in the Warehouse District and argued that the economic benefits of a ballpark would dwarf the tax money it would take to build it.
“This stadium will be an enormous asset to downtown and to all of Lucas County,” he said.
On May 5, county voters will decide whether to raise their sales tax by a quarter of a penny for 35 months.
The money raised, about $35.4 million, would go toward building the ballpark and an aquatic complex on the site of Ned Skeldon Stadium in Maumee.
The Mud Hens, a Toledo icon that ranks alongside Jamie Farr and Tony Packo’s restaurant in national recognition, have what most observers consider the worst stadium in the Triple-A International League.
Team officials have said they fear their parent club, the Detroit Tigers, might sever its affiliation with the Hens unless a nicer park is built.
In the hotel’s presidential suite – which was lent to the pro-tax campaign for free, officials said – Mr. Finkbeiner enumerated what he said the ballpark could attract. He said construction alone would pump more than $100 million into the local economy and create 930 jobs.
Once completed, the stadium and aquatic complex would create 420 permanent jobs, he said.
“We are talking about a very positive economic impact on downtown,” he said.
Other stadium boosters emphasized the small size of the tax, using phrases like “a very small token,” “not a significant amount,” and “not much.”
“For a quarter of a penny, you’re going to get an awful lot of economic impact,” said Gene Cook, general manager of the Mud Hens and recently retired president of city council.
He said Ned Skeldon Stadium had been stretched “as far as it will go. Realistically, it’s still a horse racetrack.”
From the hotel perch, though, the proposed stadium is a bunch of old warehouses, in various states of disrepair.
As boosters excitedly pointed to where home plate would be and described the view fans will have of the Maumee River, they acknowledged that they have a fight to convince voters.
“We hope the voters of Lucas County will be wise, that they will be visionary,” the mayor said.