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.