Observers see numerous options open to Sports Arena’s Gladieux

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page A9

So, what’s next for the Toledo Sports Arena?

Owner Tim Gladieux has announced plans to build an arena, but has been mum on details. According to experts, here are some of the options he is probably considering:

* He could build an arena and tear down the old one.

On Feb. 27, Mr. Gladieux promised to build an ice palace that would be the envy of the suburbs. But Sports Arena officials have no site plan or financing set up, and sports economists say that if the Rossford development goes forward, a new arena in East Toledo would make little economic sense.

“I don’t think having two facilities going for the same market is very advantageous for either,” said Temple University professor Michael Leeds.

If the Rossford project runs into problems, though – difficulties in finding buyers for its bond issue, for example, or trouble landing the Red Wings affiliate that would be its major tenant – a new Sports Arena becomes a stronger proposition.

Mr. Gladieux said he hopes to get his project started before Rossford does, believing that such a move would cause the suburb to cancel its plans. Rossford officials say that won’t happen.

* The Sports Arena could continue in its current state, featuring Storm hockey and a mix of concerts, circuses, and car shows.

The arena stands to lose some of its business to the Rossford development, including some acts that found the Sports Arena small or its equipment obsolete. And its major tenant, the Storm, would face a serious threat from a Red Wings affiliate.

The Sports Arena could still count on hosting some acts, such as rock bands that can’t attract the 12,000 seats projected for the Rossford arena in its concert seating, according to promoters.

“The larger the arena, the bigger the act you need to fill the place,” said John Nittolo, a New Jersey promoter who will bring about 15 shows to Toledo this year.

* The Sports Arena could be turned over to developers, who could turn the building into something else entirely.

Despite the occasionally troublesome Maumee River bridges and less-than-ideal neighborhood, the Sports Arena sits on some of the most valuable real estate in Toledo. City officials are virtually drooling over the possibilities for the site.

“I think it could become the entertainment center of the community,” said Barry Broome, the city’s director of development. “It’s sound and it’s sturdy, so you could make it into whatever you wanted.”

Converting vacant East Toledo shells into entertainment destinations is something with which the city has experience. A former city vehicle storage building has been converted into the Navy Bistro restaurants and several other eateries are scheduled to open this year.

One idea: turning the arena into a multiplex movie theatre. Mayor Carty Finkbeiner made that suggestion in a letter he wrote to Mr. Gladieux last month.

In the mid 1980s, when construction of the SeaGate Centre threatened the Sports Arena’s convention business, the Toledo-Lucas County Convention & Visitors Bureau rallied behind a proposal to tear down the Sports Arena and erect high-rise condominium towers on the site. A site plan done by SSOE, Inc., proposed three 12-story buildings with a total of 224 condo units.

Since then, city officials have pushed for high-rise housing to be placed in the downtown, in buildings such as the LaSalle, the Commodore Perry, and the Hillcrest. Mr. Broome said he didn’t think the Toledo condo market would allow the 1980s plan to go forward.