Other metro areas have found 2 hockey teams to be too many; Experts warn of battle between Storm, Rossford team

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

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It’s a lesson that’s been learned in cities across the country: having two minor-league hockey teams in one market can be a recipe for disaster.

Toledo will likely get its chance to test that conclussion soon, as the American Hockey League’s Adirondack Red Wings are expected to join the East Coast Hockey League’s Toledo Storm in competing for the region’s puck bucks.

Experts in sports economics agree that it’s dicey proposition to have two hockey teams courting the same fans.

Take for example, the plight of minor-league hockey in Fort Worth, Tex.

Only five years after introducing minor-league hockey to a Texas audience, the Fort Worth Fire had won the Central Hockey League championship in 1997. Corporate sponsors were lining up. The team was pulling in more than 4,000 fans a night to root for their hometown favorites. It was a hockey success story.

That’s all over now.

That same year, a local businessman decided to start a second minor-league hockey team in town, the Fort Worth Brahmas. His first action: signing half of the Fire’s championship team and its coach. The competition between the two was cutthroat. Each went after the other’s advertisers, sponsors, and fans – aggressively.

Both teams are averaging fewer than 2,000 fans a night. At a game last week, the Fire had fewer than 700 fans in the seats.

In contrast, the Rossford site is nearly perfect geographically – at the intersection of I-75 and I-80/90, and only five minutes from downtown Toledo. The arena will be brand new and modern, officials promise, and the quality of hockey will be high; many of the Detroit Red Wings’s current players spent time with the team’s AHL affiliate.

But no matter their varying strengths, both teams would need a miracle to prosper in a two-team town considering the expense and energy needed to win the battle for Toledo’s hockey dollars, sports economists said.

“In economics, we have the concept of dissipation of profits,” said Temple University Professor Michael Leeds. “You see producer making a profit, so you decide to do the same thing. Then other people join in too, and soon nobody’s making a profit anymore.”

He pointed to the example of his hometown, Philadelphia. For years, Philly native looked with envy at Baltimore, where a successful aquarium had helped to revitalize the Inner Harbor neighborhood. Trying to copy Baltimore’s success, officials built an aquarium in neighboring Camden, N.J., and it didn’t do nearly as well – “because there was already an aquarium in Baltimore,” he said.

In a community the size of Toledo, Dr. Leeds said, there likely would not be enought of a fan base to make both teams successful.

“I wish everyone luck, but I think there’s going to be some significant disappointment on both ends,” he said.

Further complicating the battle between the teams in Toledo would be the prospect of a battle between two new arenas.

Although he said he plans to break ground on his new East Toledo arena within 90 days, Mr. Gladieux has not yet determined an exact site, a plan, or financing. He has said he plans to build the arena mostly with private dollars, but some form of public assistance might be needed. Dr. Howard said he boubted a financing package could be arranged.

“I just can’t imagine a bank stepping forward to lend $42 million to Build an arena in a less-than-ideal location with a big suburban development in such close proximity,” he said.

Last week, Rossford officials bought 60 acres of farmland near I-75 and the Ohio Turnpike and then approved plans to turn it into an arena and amphitheater complex. The city’s arena authority plans to float $48 million in revenue bonds to pay for the development. And, the planned arena already has a manager – Olympia Entertainment, Inc., owned by Mr. Ilitch. Although an agreement on the Red Wings team has not been reached, Rossford officials said they expect it soon.

Abandoned stadiums fight to stay in the money game; Many turn to rock concerts, minor sports, exhibits

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

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Across America, state-of-the-art arenas are sprouting from the ground – shiny futuristic beacons, testaments to progress and the economic pull of luxury boxes. Cities pour millions into building them, and fans love going to them.

But it’s easy to forget what they leave behind: perfectly functioning buildings whose only problem was being too old.

Someone once poured millions into their construction too, and fans once thrilled to watch their hometown team play there.

Welcome to the graveyard of old stadiums.

For every new star like Gund Arena, there are places such as the Richfield Coliseum, the former home of Cleveland’s Cavaliers.

Cities are trying to find new ways to make money from these old buildings.

“It’s certainly been a change,” said Neville Waters, marketing director for Washington’s Sports and Entertainment Commission, which runs Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.

Until 1997, RFK was the home of the Washington Redskins, but they’ve since moved to Jack Kent Cooke Stadium in suburban Maryland.

The Redskins’s eight home games a year – and the team’s rabid fans – funneled almost $2 million annually into the stadium. When the team moved, it left behind a huge financial hole.

So RFK officials had to refocus. They decided to put their efforts behind soccer, the sport analysts have long said is ready to become enormous in the United States. The stadium’s new major tenant is D.C. United, one of the top teams in Major League Soccer.

RFK has also hosted the Tibetan Freedom Concert (an enormous festival of rock acts, including the Beastie Boys and Beck) and a mass wedding of 56,000 people by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

Throw in a few baseball exhibitions, a Promise Keepers gathering, and some concerts, and you have a result that surprised even RFK officials: the stadium is still in the black.

“We were anticipating net losses these last two years, but we’ve ended up making a small profit,” Mr. Waters said.

“Things have really gone better than we would have expected,” he said.

There’s progress in Portland, Ore., too, where the 38-year-old Memorial Coliseum was supplanted in 1995 by the modern Rose Garden, built only 50 yards away.

The city’s professional basketball team, the Trail Blazers, moved into the Garden, leaving the old building without its major tenant.

Coliseum officials have found two ways to save money running the old facility. First, the Rose Garden’s staff also runs the Coliseum, which saves money on personnel costs.

Secondly, the city of Portland is paying for the renovations required to keep the building usable.

Without those artificial props, the Coliseum would be losing money.

“The Coliseum is in the black, but just barely,” said J. Isaac, senior vice president of the Oregon Arena Corp., which runs both facilities.

The Coliseum attracts some concerts that are better suited for its smaller size, but most of the building’s business occurs on days when the Rose Garden is booked, he said.

“It would be very, very difficult to make a profit if we were competing head-to-head with a newer facility,” he said.

With the new stadium push of the 1990s, even not-so-old arenas are falling victim to new competition.

In Florida, the Miami Arena has lost its NHL team, the Florida Panthers, to a new arena one county to the north; its NBA team, the Miami Heat, will leave after this season.

Miami Arena is only 11 years old, but it is already considered outdated. In an attempt to generate revenues, the arena brought in an East Coast Hockey League team. But its attendance numbers have been dead last in the league. It pulls in fewer than 2,000 fans a night.

Passed-over arenas have tended to focus on lower-prestige events, such as high school basketball, indoor football, or tractor pulls.

But some owners find it makes more economic sense just to tear down the past. In Cleveland, Municipal Stadium has been torn down to make way for the new home of the Browns.

Since it closed in 1994, the owners of the Richfield Coliseum in Summit County have fielded dozens of proposals for the empty hulk, including turning it into a state prison, a church, or an indoor amusement park.

But in January, they announced they had made up their minds.

The building will be torn down, and the area will be turned into a park. Officials at the time said they hoped that, in a few years, no one will be able to tell where the Coliseum had once stood.

Jacobs Field planner to lead Hens project

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

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The man behind Jacobs Field in Cleveland, who believes downtowns are the natural sites for new ballparks, will be put in charge of the Mud Hens stadium project, the Lucas County commissioners said yesterday.

Commissioner-designate Harry Barlos said the county is ready to hire Cleveland lawyer Thomas V. Chema to be the Mud Hens project coordinator. Mr. Barlos said he hopes that will help stop the political infighting that has plagued the project for the last year.

“It’s time to get to work,” he said during a taping of The Editors television program. “The swords have to be put down to allow Mr. Chema to proceed.”

Mr. Chema is president of the Gateway Consulting Group, which has done work on stadiums and arenas across the country.

He said he prefers putting them in downtowns, not in the suburbs. “That would be my predisposition,” he said. “You can never say 100 per cent of the time that that’s what ought to happen. Every community is different. But I can tell you that my predisposition is toward downtown sites, because I have seen how valuable they can be.”

The Mud Hens play in Maumee. Toledo city officials have been pushing for the new stadium to be put downtown.

Sandy Isenberg, president of the commissioners, said discussions with Mr. Chema began in January, and that a vote to approve hiring him could be taken as soon as next week.

“He’s got a track record you can look at,” she said. “He’ll bring a lot of experience and expertise.”

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner was pleased by the potential hire. “I am excited and delighted,” he said in a statement. “He is a highly respect ed professional with experience at Jacobs Field in Cleveland. I enthusiastically applaud the county commissioners.”

Ms. Isenberg said that Mr. Chema’s contract with the county is still under consideration. His proposal, sent to the county Tuesday, calls for a $15,000-a-month retainer plus expenses.

Commissioner Bill Copeland said he has not yet discussed Mr. Chema with his colleagues, but said he will support their decision to hire him. Mr. Barlos, the clerk of courts, is expected to be sworn in as a commissioner next week to fill the seat left vacant by Mark Pietrykowski’s election as an appeals court judge.

In 1989, then-Gov. Richard Celeste tapped Mr. Chema to gather Cleveland’s political forces behind construction of a downtown baseball stadium for the Indians. Mr. Chema quickly realized that to lure people downtown year round, he had to develop another facility for winter sports, so he added a new arena for the Cavaliers to the deal and called it the Gateway project.

Mr. Chema, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Harvard Law School, arranged the financing and promoted the project. Voters approved a new tax on alcohol and cigarettes to pay for about half the cost, and owners of the two sports teams kicked in the remainder.

Jacobs Field and Gund Arena have been successful, and often are cited as models for other cities seeking to use downtown sports venues for economic revitalization. But both were wildly over budget.

The baseball stadium ended up costing $176 million, not the $128 million projected when voters approved the tax. And Gund Arena’s cost shot up from $75 million to $148 million. He blamed much of the overruns on a push from local officials to speed up construction.

Since then, Mr. Chema has been involved in baseball stadium proposals for the San Francisco Giants, the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, and the San Diego Padres.

Mr. Chema stressed that the process of putting together the political and financial backing for a ballpark can be “very, very difficult.” He said that, if he is hired this month, a ballpark could be ready for play in the spring of 2002.

“I think there is an opportunity to do a public-public-private partnership with several different levels,” he said, adding that he would like city, county, and state support for the project.

Toledo’s charter prohibits the use of city money to build a stadium, but Mr. Chema may be able to help attract money from Columbus.

He is well connected in statewide Democratic Party circles. He served as executive director of the Ohio Lottery Commission in the early 1980s, then was chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio from 1985 to 1989. From 1990 to 1996, he chaired the Ohio Building Authority.

Even though Republicans hold every statewide office and control both houses of the legislature, Mr. Chema said he still has good relationships with officials in Columbus and hopes to get upward of $5 million in state assistance for the Mud Hens park.

“The precedent has been set with state money going to stadiums in other cities, like Cleveland, Cincinnati, and an arena in Columbus,” he said. “I think other parts of the state, like Dayton or Youngstown or Toledo, have a good chance to get a similar commitment.”

Ms. Isenberg was quick to say that Mr. Chema would have no policy-making role, but would only make recommendations to the commissioners. She emphasized that he will not report to any other political figures.

Ms. Isenberg has repeatedly criticized Mr. Finkbeiner for what she considers interference in the Mud Hens project.

Mr. Barlos made similar comments during The Editors.

“If the interference continues, that only hurts the project,” he said. “Carty needs to understand and trust the board of county commissioners to be fair on this issue.”

Mr. Barlos’s interview will be broadcast at 7 p.m. tomorrow on WGTE-TV, Channel 30, and at 12:30 p.m. Saturday on WBGU-TV, Channel 27.

Arena’s neglect opened door for Rossford; For decades, owner declines to renovate East Toledo facility

By Joshua Benton and Michael D. Sallah
Blade Staff Writers

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It was a critical time for the Toledo Sports Arena. The country’s top acts weren’t showing up anymore. The physical plant was crumbling. City officials were calling it unsafe and a contributor to local crime.

It was 1975, and some arena executives were trying to persuade owner Virgil Gladieux to make some much needed improvements. Things like fixing the leaky roof, and adding air conditioning to make the summer nights bearable.

“We said to Virgil, `We’ll take out a small business loan of maybe $3 million, and we can really refurbish the place,”‘ remembers Harold Shaw, then in charge of the arena’s advertising and publicity.

But Mr. Gladieux said no.

“I can’t tell you why. I don’t know why,” Mr. Shaw said. “They put in the cheapest materials they could.”

For decades, people – ranging from city officials to sports fans to his own employees – told Virgil Gladieux to fix up the Sports Arena.

For decades, he said no.

That lack of improvements opened the door for last week’s announcement of a $48 million arena and amphitheater complex in suburban Rossford. It will be in direct competition with the Sports Arena, and it is exactly the kind of development feared by advocates of downtown revitalization.

One of the leaders of the suburban plan, Rossford Mayor Mark Zuchowski, said that if the Sports Arena had been substantially improved five years ago, his city would be thinking twice about breaking ground in May.

“That would have changed our plans,” he said. “We might have done something else, like just the amphitheatre. The reason what we’re doing is so easy is that there is such a need for it in northwest Ohio.”

Throughout his life, Mr. Gladieux used his substantial wealth and political influence to stave off any potential competitors downtown. For years, he fought a downtown convention center, which he feared would bleed business from his arena.

But the biggest threat to the Sports Arena isn’t coming from downtown. The Rossford announcement – and all the missed opportunities to renovate – could drive professional hockey out of Toledo once again, and relegate the Sports Arena, once the region’s premier venue, to second-class status.

The Toledo Sports Arena opened on Nov. 13, 1947, to praise and excitement. The building “symbolizes great progress in a great city,” said then-Vice Mayor Michael V. DiSalle.

With 5,160 seats, it was bigger than the city’s two major venues at the time: the University of Toledo field house and the Civic Center Auditorium. It was one of the first privately built arenas after World War II. It opened with Holiday on Ice, and was soon attracting some of the country’s top talent.

Elvis Presley played there. So did Liberace, Guy Lombardo, and Danny Thomas.

Virgil Gladieux was the building’s primary owner. He had made a fortune by selling Buddies Box lunches to Toledo factory workers, 8,000 a day during the 1940s. He issued $100 stock certificates to hundreds of Toledo businessmen to help fund the $750,000 building.

For decades, it was the top place in town for events, from circuses to concerts to rodeos.

But as the arena aged, its drawing power waned, as performers began to complain about its small size, its poor acoustics, and its dilapidated condition. What followed were years of booking smaller shows and sometimes embarrassing episodes:

* The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was forced to eliminate its famous human cannonball act and its highest-flying acrobatics because of the low ceiling. The high-wire act, normally at 36 feet, was performed at half that.

* When Liberace performed at the arena, he was forced to play an entire concert at a piano with one foot pedal missing. “Liberace almost killed me,” said Mr. Shaw, who promoted the concert during his 30-year affiliation with the arena.

* In the early 1970s, city officials began to complain about a lack of security at arena events, which they said led to underage drinking, drug use, and fights. In 1973, rocker Alice Cooper stormed off stage after just two songs because his band was being pelted by objects thrown by audience members. The band’s guitarist got cuts on his face and hand after a firecracker shattered a stage light.

* Neighbors complained about the arena’s impact on the neighborhood. “People were complaining about the parking lot because it was a mess,” said Ray Nies, a city councilman from 1969 to 1985.

* The arena’s ice-making machine was so slow that it couldn’t get a solid sheet of ice ready in time for some hockey games. “After about 20 minutes, the ice would start breaking, and sparks would start flying from the skates,” Mr. Shaw said. “They were down to the concrete.”

Things got so bad for the Sports Arena that, in 1974, Mr. Gladieux took out a full-page ad in The Blade defending his arena, saying it was big enough for a city of Toledo’s size and that he had spent more than $200,000 on improvements, such as new lighting and restrooms. But those were rarely more than maintenance required to keep the arena functioning, Mr. Shaw said.

Mr. Gladieux even tried to sell the arena to the city, according to then-Mayor Harry Kessler.

“But The Blade was opposed to the idea,” he said. “And it was just dropped.” At the time, the mayor questioned whether the city could ever make money off the deal.

Mr. Gladieux did more than just defend his arena. He tried to kill other ones on the horizon.

In the 1970s, city leaders were pushing for construction of a convention center downtown. Mr. Gladieux fought them for several years. Mr. Shaw said Mr. Gladieux provided substantial financial support to the Affiliated League for Equal Representation and Taxation Alliance, a group that was organizing to fight the project.

Mr. Gladieux won the first round in 1973, when Toledoans voted to amend the city charter to require a vote on any spending for a convention center. But local officials got around that limitation by having the county and state pay for most of the convention center’s cost.

By 1982, it had become a foregone conclusion that a convention center would be built. Mr. Gladieux tried to persuade area leaders to build it on the site of the Sports Arena. Instead, officials chose a site on the west bank of the Maumee River.

When construction started on the SeaGate Centre in 1986, Mr. Gladieux called a special stockholders meeting and asked to buy all their stock. He offered them $50 a share, half of what they had paid 39 years earlier. They accepted.

Mr. Gladieux said at the time that he wanted to have full control so he could fix up the arena.

“I want it so that I’m not ashamed of it,” he said. “I just want to keep the facility decent.”

He cited the SeaGate’s competition as the reason for the proposed major renovations, which included a new roof. But they still never materialized.

In 1996, with Mr. Gladieux in declining health, his son, Tim, took a more prominent role in the family business. Arena officials finally relented in 1996 and announced plans for a $17 million renovation – the largest capital improvement ever proposed for the arena.

It was to be expanded to accommodate 10,800 seats for hockey – doubling the current size – and 13,200 for concerts. There were to be luxury boxes and an elevated roof.

Mr. Gladieux died in 1997, passing the family business to Tim, who was to oversee the renovations. But he was stymied by infighting among the owners of the Toledo Storm, the East Coast Hockey League franchise. Several minority partners in the team were accusing majority owner Barry Soskin of fiscal impropriety, potentially putting the team’s future in doubt.

“We couldn’t get a loan to pay for the renovations with our major tenant up in the air,” Tim Gladieux said.

At the same time, Mr. Gladieux was asking Detroit Red Wings officials to consider moving their American Hockey League team from Glens Falls, N.Y., to the Sports Arena. But he said his proposal fell on deaf ears.

After long discussions, Mr. Gladieux agreed to buy the Storm for an undisclosed sum, making him the owner of the arena and its major tenant.

The sale was closed on Nov. 4, and arena officials began pushing ahead. They still had not decided whether to renovate the building or to erect an arena from scratch.

He said the family food-service empire, V/Gladieux Enterprises – the descendant of his father’s Buddie Boxes – kept him so busy that he didn’t have enough time to spend on planning for renovations.

“We’re a big company, operating in 10 states,” he said. “I was trying to address the arena expansion while dealing with all these other businesses.”

Then came the surprise Rossford announcement. The Glens Falls team would be moving to the new suburban arena to built near I-75 and the Ohio Turnpike.

Rossford’s new arena would feature 9,200 seats for hockey, 10,500 for basketball games, and 12,000 for concerts.

Next to it would be built a 15,000-seat open-air amphitheater to rival the Pine Knob Music Theatre near Clarkston, Mich.

Red Wings officials had promised him just a few months before that they would not bring a new team to the area to compete with the Storm, Mr. Gladieux said.

The day after Rossford’s arena announcement, Mr. Gladieux announced plans to replace his aging Sports Arena by building an arena of his own. But he admits that he does not have a site, a site plan, or financing set up.

He promised to begin construction within 90 days, but has since acknowledged that would occur only “if everything really falls into place.”

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, in a letter sent Monday, said: “I have nothing but praise for the good officials of Rossford for their vision, gusto, and guts. Tim Gladieux has no one to blame but himself.”

Mr. Gladieux said that was an unfair accusation from the mayor, and that he had been working hard to push renovations ahead since buying the Storm four months ago.

But Rossford’s Mayor Zuchowski said the decisions not to renovate and upgrade the Sports Arena was a major reason for his city’s decision to build.

“If there had been changes at the Sports Arena, that probably would have changed things.”

Mayor pushes for fast action on Hens park

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

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Mayor Carty Finkbeiner wants to make sure at least one minor league team is in downtown Tole do.

“The Rossford experience is a wake-up call!” Mr. Finkbeiner wrote in a letter sent yesterday to Lucas County Commissioner Sandy Isenberg and Ed Bergsmark, president of the Mud Hens board of directors.

The mayor was referring to last week’s announcement that a $48 million arena and amphitheater complex would be built in suburban Rossford. Mr. Finkbeiner said the development went to the suburbs because of delays at the Toledo Sports Arena, which is badly in need of renovations.

Much of that delay can be traced to years of infighting among owners of the arena’s main tenant, the Toledo Storm. That’s exactly what the mayor doesn’t want to see happen with the Mud Hens and their quest for a new ballpark.

Officials of the team, the city, and the county have argued with one another in recent months, and Mr. Finkbeiner said those battles have delayed action on construction of a ballpark for the team.

“We’re not aggressively moving forward,” the mayor wrote. “Let’s get moving!”

Mr. Finkbeiner has been criticized repeatedly for his role in the ballpark process. As recently as last week, Ms. Isenberg wrote a scathing letter to the mayor, calling it “beyond comprehension” that he would try to sell the naming rights for the ballpark, which would be a county-owned facility.

In yesterday’s letter, Mr. Finkbeiner again pushed his preferred site for a ballpark, in downtown’s warehouse district. Discussions about where to put a ballpark have been going on for more than a year. “Ed and Sandy, there is a huge need for a new facility for the Mud Hens and a huge need to support the downtown,” he wrote. “It is time to move forward and reach that conclusion.”

If area leaders do not act fast, the mayor wrote, the Detroit Tigers could choose to end its affiliation with the Mud Hens.

Mr. Bergsmark and Ms. Isenberg did not return phone calls seeking comment last night.

On the same day Mr. Finkbeiner was pushing for a downtown site, two suburban governments were questioning the wisdom of such a location.

Maumee’s city council approved a resolution asking Lucas County to keep the Mud Hens in their current home, Ned Skeldon Stadium in Maumee.

Springfield Township Trustee Walter Taube, Jr., asked that the Lucas County commissioners and city of Toledo conduct a study to determine the economic impact of a downtown location.

Mr. Taube said he was not taking a stand for or against the proposal, but said such a study should be made before taxpayers’ money is spent. He said some studies of ballparks elsewhere showed they resulted in no economic benefit.

Rossford has project going on fast track; Land bought, loan taken for ‘incredible’ venture

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

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It didn’t exist a week ago, but the Rossford Arena Amphitheatre Authority has signed off on one of the biggest economic development projects in the region’s recent history.

The authority voted 4-0 last night to buy 60 acres of farmland near I-75 and the Ohio Turnpike, and then approved plans to turn it into an arena and amphitheater complex.

“This is just incredible,” said Rossford Mayor Mark Zuchowski, who was named president of the authority at the meeting. “This market has been underserved for a long, long time, and people are just so excited.”

The land’s purchase price was $1.5 million. The authority bought the land from the Rossford Economic Growth Corp., which received the option on the property from its owners.

The authority paid the growth corporation $800,000 to turn over its plans and engineering work on the property.

The purchase was made seconds after the authority went $2.5 million in debt by borrowing that sum from the pension fund of the Northwest Ohio District Council of Carpenters.

Officials said the loan will be repaid within 120 days, as soon as the authority floats $48 million in revenue bonds to pay for the development.

Those millions will pay for an arena and amphitheater that officials say will rival any in the region.

The arena’s major tenant is expected to be the Adirondack Red Wings, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings. The team plays in Glens Falls, N.Y.

No agreement on the team has been reached with the Red Wings, but officials said they expect an announcement within the next week.

The arena complex will be managed by Olympia Entertainment, Inc., a company owned by Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch.

In addition, Mr. Ilitch will contribute several million dollars into a reserve fund that would be used to pay off the bonds if arena revenues aren’t big enough to do so.

City administrator Vince Langevin said the amount of Mr. Ilitch’s contribution has not been set.

The arena is expected to mean trouble for the Toledo Sports Arena, the East Toledo structure that houses the East Coast Hockey League’s Toledo Storm.

On Saturday, a day after the Rossford project was announced, arena owner Tim Gladieux said he will start construction on an arena within 90 days.

If he starts his arena before Rossford starts its arena, Mr. Gladieux said, Rossford officials would change their minds and back away from their plans.

Mr. Langevin said that’s an empty hope.

“We just made a $2.4 million investment in our future,” he said. “We’re not going to walk away from that.”

Mr. Zuchowski said that, within the next month, he expects announcements on new retail, restaurant, hotel, and office park developments in the area, which is known as the Crossroads of America because of its prime location.

“When the arena opens on May 1, 2000, there will already be plenty around it,” the mayor said.

The carpenters’ union loan will be repaid at an annual interest rate of about 7 per cent, Mr. Langevin said.

In other action, the authority named its four officers.

In addition to Mr. Zuchowski, Mr. Langevin was named treasurer, and Rossford council president Molly Jakubec was named vice president.

Patricia Sloan, Rossford’s parks and recreation director, was named secretary.