New arena may make ‘greatest’ greater yet; Circus would return more often to Toledo

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

The circus is coming to town, but it would come more often if it didn’t have to play in the Toledo Sports Arena.

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus – a.k.a. The Greatest Show on Earth – will return to the Sports Arena June 12-16 for the first time in five years. But it likely will be without its human cannonball and other acts because of the arena’s low ceiling.

“For years, we’ve bypassed Toledo because we’ve had trouble fitting into the arena,” said Jeff Meyer, the circus’s vice president for field marketing and sales. “The building has real physical limitations.”

Last month, the Sports Arena’s owner and Ross ford officials each announced plans for arenas that could hold the full circus. Mr. Meyer said construction of either would encourage the circus to return more often.

But he said the Rossford plan might be more encouraging, because the circus has an excellent working relationship with Olympia Entertainment, Inc., which would run the suburban arena.

“Certainly, in the long term, I think your community has struck on a reasonable answer” to the Sports Arena’s problems, Mr. Meyer said. “If Olympia was running the arena, we’d be very interested in coming back on an annual basis.”

The last time the circus came to town was in 1994, when it played to more than 45,000 fans. Circus officials said they would play Toledo more often but for the Sports Arena’s size. “The question becomes, do we even want to come back if it means removing parts of the performance?” Mr. Meyer said.

Last month, Rossford officials announced plans for a $48 million arena and amphitheater complex near the intersection of I-75 and the Ohio Turnpike.

Sports Arena owner Tim Gladieux countered the next day with plans to build a $42 million arena on the Sports Arena site in East Toledo.

In 1994, the circus canceled the human cannonball, restricted trapeze artists from doing certain moves, and lowered the high-wire act to about half its normal height. The same adjustments likely will be made this year, Mr. Meyer said, “unless we find some creative solutions to the challenges the arena presents.”

Gary Wyse, the Sports Arena’s general manager, said he was excited by the return of the Greatest Show On Earth. He said the Royal Hanneford Circus, which performed in November, was able to use its human cannonball act.