37 min

East side sports arena workshop

(my Jun 16, 2005 post)

At least 100 people attended the sports arena feasibility study meeting at Waite High School Tuesday evening. The east-siders brought plenty of attitude. I think they were more interested in tearing someone a new a-hole than watching the slide show that explained the study's findings. They couldn't wait to speak. I can't blame them for being spunky. They feel like they are being screwed again, and I think they're right. Even though I'd like to see the arena on the downtown side of the river, I'm also in the just-build-it-somewhere camp.

According to the developer, the Marina District project will happen on the east side with or without an arena. One resident tried to comfort everyone that no matter what's decided with the arena, the east side will be dramatically changed for the better. But the east-siders want the arena too, and they're not going down quietly. Near the end of the meeting, east side hero Bob "Bulldog" McCloskey and Mayor Jack Ford briefly traded spark-filled barbs.

Sports arena news at the beginning of the month [Jun 2, 2005 Toledo Blade story]:

A $70,000 study commissioned by the city of Toledo comes down on the side of building a new arena downtown rather than on the Marina District site on the east side. The study was conducted by the Pizzuti Cos., of Columbus, which is the city's selected developer of the Marina District.

William Carroll, the city's development director, said Mayor Jack Ford wants to hold several community workshops to let residents, particularly those in East Toledo, absorb the conclusions of the long-awaited study.

So I guess Tuesday's meeting wasn't a meeting to express concerns. It was a community workshop to help everyone absorb the study's conclusions. I don't think I absorbed anything. I observed some interesting rhetoric, and in some ways I'm more confused than ever.

The next sports arena community workshop is scheduled for Noon on June 22 at the train station.

The 7:00 p.m. meeting started at 7:13 when Ford took the microphone. He said he was late due to a "Meet the Mayor" at the Mott Library. Ford had a few opening remarks. Mainly Ford said he hoped the presenters would keep their comments brief so there would be time for questions from the public. Isn't that nice. Giving the public time to speak at a public meeting. Did that happen at the steam plant public hearing back in the spring? The public did get to speak this time.

In his opening remarks, Ford also mentioned a couple of the politicians present, including City Councilman George Sarantou. Ford said Frank Szollisi and state rep Peter Ujvagi were suppose to be there, but they were no-shows at the start. I don't know if they ever showed up. I get the feeling the meeting was not represented well by local politicians.

Later in the evening when the public had a chance to speak, a resident told Ford that she was looking around and didn't notice any county politicians at the meeting. She sarcastically asked Ford, "The east side is in Lucas County isn't it?" Ford shook his head and said, "I'm not going to get into that." And he immediately went back to his seat in the corner of the cafeteria.

I don't think Ford was disgusted with the resident's comment. I think he was upset with the fact that there weren't any Lucas County reps at the meeting. At least I hope that was the case. Why no Lucas County officials? This seemed like an important discussion.

I think the lack of local politicians at the meeting means the location for the arena has already been decided at least in principle if not in writing. And it won't be on the east side of the river. It's all about the money. The west side has more big business, more power and influence, more money, more campaign contributions, just more.

Anyway, after Ford's brief opening comments, McCloskey spoke for a minute or so. He received a nice applause from the home crowd when he came to the microphone. Bob talked about the dramatic increase in the cost of building materials and the urgency to do something soon.

Then Jim Russell of Pizzuti Cos, the Marina District project developer, talked for a few minutes.
"I really want your input."
"You've attended more meetings than I want you to attend."

Jim spoke about the Marina District project. He said Toledo has spent millions and has made great progress in getting the site ready for the Marina District project. Several large poster-sized photos were stretched out on a couple cafeteria tables, showing different parts of the remediation process: cleaning up the old power plant, removing slag, cinder, and coal, etc.

Russell was candid. He said something about Toledo not being the best market in northwest Ohio. He said Toledo is in an extremely competitive market in trying to attract a major destination retail site. He discussed mix-use development: retail, restaurants, public spaces, marina, phased-in housing over 5-10 years.

Russell said Pizzuti doesn't care where the arena goes. The Blade story at the top makes it sound like Pizzuti chose downtown for the arena. But several times during the evening, Russell said Pizzuti doesn't care where the arena goes. The crowd didn't like hearing that. I think a lot of people didn't believe Russell, but I believed him. His job is to build a $200 million project on the east side of the river. According to Russell, if that includes an arena, so be it. But if there's no arena, the Marina District project moves forward anyway.

I always thought the Marina District project was more of a fantasy than the arena, but after attending the meeting, it's likely that the Marina District project will probably get completed before an arena is built.

Russell did say that an arena on the east side will definitely help the Marina District. He said, "That's a fact." Seems kind of obvious.

Pizzuti hired CSL to do the feasibility study about the arena. CSL has completed over 500 projects, and they've consulted with 50 sports teams and municipalities over the past two years. Brian Parker, I think that was his name, from CSL discussed the study.

The study shows that Toledo can support an arena no matter where the arena is located. The arena will work on the east side and the downtown side. He did say that an arena would be better in the core area of the city, which includes the east side. Don't build the arena on the outer edges of the city. Parker said that non-downtown development takes longer.

On average, they would expect the arena to be active 110-120 days per year. It would have 8,000 - 10,000 seats. Would have to be host to at least one sports team. Hockey is the likely choice for Toledo, but there's also the chance for some kind of arena football league and basketball.

Where one can draw the conclusion that the study favors the downtown side is from all of the "prelim" comments Parker gave. For example, prelim work shows that money coming from businesses for arena naming rights and for premium boxes would be greater if the arena was downtown than on the east side.

The study says the arena would be profitable on either side of the river, but it would be slightly more profitable on the downtown side.

On urban design, the study says the arena would blend in better on the downtown side than on the east side because of the entertainment in the warehouse district and the surrounding tall buildings. A new arena would be 4 to 6 stories tall. I guess how the building looks compared to its surroundings is a factor. Later in the meeting, residents had nasty comments about this fact. They said they wouldn't care if there was a big building on the east side, sitting by itself, empty for 200+ days per year. When you've been stuck with the current sports aroma dump for so many years, it's easy to understand why residents would consider this urban design factor a bunch of crap.

The study indicated that the downtown had an advantage because of existing parking, and the study also said there would be less traffic congestion on the downtown than on the east side. That fact also didn't sit well with the fans. I don't think anything Parker said was liked by the residents. One chap sitting near me said quite loudly, "That's a bunch of bullshit." CSL has been doing studies like this all over the country.

The study said either side would support an arena, but the downtown side was overall a "slightly" better location. How much better? That's the big question, and this study doesn't answer that. Another factor is the cost. One side could cost more to build than the other.

Right now, the prelim study says it would cost a little more to build the arena on the east side. McCloskey later ripped into this fact. McCloskey said you can make the arena an east-west location decision, but don't make it a cost decision. Bob said there was no way an arena could be built any cheaper than on the east side of the river. Ditto for the parking garage, which is another big issue and cost. Bob didn't give any facts to back up his cost claims.

Parker spoke for 30 minutes. His presentation was titled: "Proposed Toledo Arena Preliminary Feasibility Analysis." I guess he couldn't call it "Helping the East Side Absorb the Fact that They Won't Get an Arena."

Remember east-siders, a $200 million development project is planned for the east side no matter what's decided about the arena. I don't think this fact mattered much to the residents. They were stoked. They'd been waiting for an hour or more to speak their minds. When Parker was done, BOOM, the first resident sunk her teeth into Pizzuti and CSL.

Which didn't make any sense to me. CSL was hired by Pizzuti to do the analysis. They did that. CSL compared Toledo to other markets of similar size. CSL and Pizzuti aren't saying where to build the arena. The study says the downtown has a slight advantage right now. But more analysis is needed to determine how much of an advantage, or the politicians can decide now on a location based upon this study.

I felt a little sorry for Russell and Parker as the residents verbally attacked them. Some of the residents had good comments, but they should have been directed at the politicians, especially the one quietly sitting in the corner of the room.

Well, one resident finally called out the mayor. The citizen mentioned something about Mayor Ford's past position on an arena deal between UT and Toledo. I don't know what it was all about, but Ford did. The Big Man got up after this accusatory comment. He sauntered over to the microphone and took command.
Ford knows how to control a crowd. A couple of times during the evening, residents tried to talk over Ford, but he got them to shut up.

I really didn't understand the whole UT/Dan Johnson/Savage Hall/Toledo/new arena mess.

The common theme by many residents was the fact that Toledoans voted years ago to build the arena on the east side. After one resident stated this fact very well, another resident yelled out, "Suck on that." The sucking comment was unfortunately directed at and wasted on Pizzuti and CSL. CSL produced the analysis. It's up to the politicians to decide.

Pizzuti doesn't care where the arena is built. Pizzuti is not the enemy. Pizzuti is on the side of Toledo and specifically the east side. At one point, Russell said the east side had been getting "screwed" for years. Russell used the word "screwed." His comment came after another resident made a claim about Pizzuti that Russell took personally, so he tried to convince the residents that Pizzuti is for the east side.

Russell said he doesn't want his name attached to a failed project. You could tell he was a little emotional at this point when he was trying to defend his involvement in the projects, which he shouldn't have had to do if the residents were more informed. I agree, there's a lot to keep track of: developers, consultants, studies, costs, financing. So it's not all the fault of the residents either. I think the residents wanted to bitch, but they directed a lot of their frustration toward the wrong people.

Maybe that's why more local politicians weren't at the meeting. They were afraid to face the public. The local politicians should have been the targets of these barbs and not Pizzuti and CSL.

Mayor Ford did say that if the decision was left solely up to him, he would build the arena on the east side. But there's more money on the west side. You can't discount the influence from downtown businesses, especially in an election year. This is where Ford seemed a little squishy to me. He sounded like a sympathetic east side supporter. Like, "Hey, we tried, but we're sorry."

Ford discussed past developer selections Kass and Douglas. Ford admits that selecting Douglas was his mistake. Apparently, Douglas wanted all of International Park, and Ford wouldn't give it to him. Kass's financing faded and the arena cost rose from $22 million to over $40 million, so Kass wasn't interested in the project anymore. That's why the request for bids for the Marina District/arena project went out for a third time, which led to Pizzuti being chosen.

I don't think Ford, however, thought much of the CSL study either. Ford said everyone is missing "the big ingredient." That's what Ford called it. "The Big Ingredient." What is it? According to Ford, it's the new I-280 bridge. While at Vegas recently trying to attract retail business to Toledo, Ford used the new I-280 bridge as a selling point.

Ford said the new bridge would be an "automatic pull" for attracting businesses and people to the east side. Ford said the new bridge would make it easier for people to get to downtown, especially the east side. Ford said he wished there was more discussion about the new bridge. He said the bridge and the Marina District are interlinked.

The parking garage cost, it's a figure Ford says no one is talking about. If the arena is built on the east side, Ford told the residents to expect an additional $60 million expense to build a four-story parking garage that has four thousand spaces. 30 acres of surface parking equals a four-story garage. Surface parking along the river is a waste of prime real estate. And according to McCloskey, it's now illegal to build surface parking in downtown Toledo.

But this parking garage expense will get factored into the decision where to locate the arena. I guess no garage is planned if the arena goes on the downtown side. The study says parking is available downtown.

One resident made an interesting claim. When talk began years ago about the Mud Hens' new stadium, apparently the east side wanted it. According to this resident, the city told the east side not to fight for the new Hens stadium. Let it be built on the west side and the east side will get something else.

Another resident spoke about how all the new development goes on the downtown side of the river "for the wealthy." The resident, however, did acknowledge the new condo development by the railroad bridge. Ford responded to this person by pointing out the restaurants at the Docks. Ford didn't back down. He answered a lot of questions and spoke at different intervals for extended periods. He was never campaigning, in my opinion. He was speaking directly, staying on point, and doing a good job answering the questions and explaining the circumstances.

Ford said that no matter what happens in the elections, he promises to never add his name to "the ledger that misuses the east side." I didn't realize there was such a ledger. That also sounds like campaigning.

Ford spoke a lot about the cost of the project. He said the project(s) have moved slowly because the city has had to determine risk. "Squeeze the numbers as tight as we can." Basically, it sounds like Ford doesn't want Toledo to lose its ass 20 years from now because of a poor decision made today that produces a failed project for the future. He said something like if a failed project loses a $1 million or even $10 million, the city can recover and move forward from it. But if a huge project fails, the city could be hurting for a long time.

Later in the meeting, a slick-looking lawyer spoke. This guy was gathering signatures before the meeting started, so he could get on the ballot for something. I don't remember for what nor do I remember his name. I think he's the lawyer to the Mayor's office. Anyway, this lawyer discussed charter section 79. I got lost here. I think it has to do with what Toledoans voted on a few years ago, which determined the location of the arena. I don't know. All I know is the lawyer kept talking about construction, acquisition, and leasing. Somehow this meant the arena should go on the east side, but, of course, there's a loophole that allows it to be built elsewhere. Whatever.

Bob McCloskey spoke some more. He said Toledo's 20/20 Plan prohibits surface parking and big box store development in the downtown area. Bob said if the east side is not chosen due to cost, "There's going to be hell to raise."

Bob thanked Ford for supporting the east side. Bob, however, said that a few people in Ford's administration, Steve Best, Bill Carroll, and some other Steve, have already decided that the downtown side has been chosen for the arena. Bob claimed Ford's people are telling east-siders that Toledo will build on the east side something so much better than an arena that east-siders won't want an arena. An interesting claim by Bob. Bob also said we can't wait for UT to make a decision. All of this got the Big Man back to the microphone.

Ford told the crowd that Bob was in Ford's office recently, and according to Ford, Bob knew the arena was going downtown, so Bob asked Ford what can the east side get. At the meeting, Bob denied saying that. Ford and Bob went back and forth a couple of times over this.

Ford also stated that what his staff says doesn't matter. Ford said the politicians will decide where the arena goes not Ford's staff. Bob took over the microphone again and said the politicians have already decided. I'm not sure what that meant. Bob asked why are the big businesses making the decisions? Bob or a resident asked, "What about the voters?"

So the politicians will decide the arena's location. East-siders believe Toledoans made that decision at the ballot box several years ago.

Russell of Prizzuti gave an interesting fact if I understood it correctly. Prizzuti has an interest in the Columbus Blue Jackets NHL team. Russell said that before the new arena, only one school in Columbus had hockey. Hard to believe. But now 12 or 13 schools have hockey programs. The new arena provides the schools ice time.

The meeting ended at 9:10. Around 16 residents spoke out. I wonder if we'll get an explanation as to why more politicians weren't present?

my Jun 16, 2005 comment

A resident asked Nugent if the east side had any options if they lose the arena. Nugent said the electorate can vote for new ammendments to charter section 79 if someone decides to build the arena on the west side. I should have asked what that means. I think the east side feels the electorate has already voted.

One more positive mentioned in the study that favors the west side of the river is that an additional 10 events, large events, would be possible each year if the new arena was next to or near the SeaGate Centre.

my other Jun 16, 2005 comment

And COSI right now is struggling financially. Are there still plans for COSI to ask the voters to pass a levy this November to support them? Maybe COSI isn't in a good location.

Having the arena snuggled among existing buildings on the west side of the river is apparently better than having it stick out in the open along the water's edge on the east side. I think that thought was expressed last night. It's another one of the positives for putting the arena on the west side.

Russell or Parker said that a waterfront arena on the east side that's vacant and dark 200+ days per year doesn't look good to people on the west side looking across the river. That's when the east side residents at the meeting said they wouldn't care how the arena looked. That's because the study is more concerned what the west side businesses think. Aesthetics are a big factor.

my Jun 22, 2005 comment

Today's sports arena "workshop" started a little after Noon and ended at 2:00. 90 minutes were devoted to questions, answers, and comments. Decent crowd on hand at the Central Union Station. At least 80 people at the start, but I didn't realize until it was over that there were a bunch of people standing in the back. A lot of suits and ties and other business attire at the meeting. I was one of only a handful there wearing jeans. At least 20 citizens went to the microphone to ask questions, rant, spew propaganda, advance conspiracy theories, with some making sensible arguments. Business owners, developers, people affiliated with different development projects, and concerned citizens tried to make their case for where the arena should be.

Bob McCloskey and Frank Szollisi attended the meeting. Mayor Ford wasn't there for the start, but I saw him standing in the back when it was over. Not sure how long he was there. He didn't speak today.

The Pizzuti and CSL people from last week gave the same presentation today. Again, the main theme from Pizzuti and CSL is that an arena will be profitable no matter which side of the river it's built on. This completed study is phase one. Phase two has not been commissioned by Toledo. The second phase would do more research into costs and financing for both sides of the river. At this time, no sites on the downtown side of the river have been suggested for an arena. The second phase would address this.

One thing I forget to mention from last week is the myth that ticket prices for events at a new arena would increase. Parker of CSL said that prices can't increase because of the competition for consumer dollars by other venues with similar price structures. In order for a new arena to be competitive, it will have to keep ticket prices at current levels.

Obviously, an arena on the downtown side could be costly due to land acquisition. I guess phase two would determine how costly. The land on the east side is already "under control." But the east side would need parking while the phase one study says enough parking already exists on the downtown side.

The first question from the crowd was about transportation. The study says traffic congestion could be greater on the east side than on the west side. Local residents believe getting to the east side is easier due to all of the bridges, and it will be even easier when the new I-280 bridge opens. I know when I go to The Docks to eat, I don't have any problem with traffic or access. I-75 to Miami Street exit and on in. Damn easy. CSL's Parker did say they don't specialize in traffic analysis.

It was said that Toledo is still in conversations with UT about a new arena, although UT seems to more interested in a long-term rehabilitation of Savage Hall.

Parking, that's a major issue in determining the location of the arena. Apparently, there are 11,000 parking spaces on the downtown side, and most are empty in the evening. So no additional parking for the downtown side is required. A $60 million garage or a 30 acre surface lot is needed for the east side.

A citizen made the comment that there were not enough parking spaces downtown to accommodate the 7,000 Jehovah's Witnesses that attended a convention at the SeaGate Centre a couple weekends ago. The citizen said a Blade article pointed out this parking problem. So the question was, how can downtown support a 10,000 seat arena without additional parking if it can't support 7,000 Jehovah's Witnesses.

From a June 18 Blade article about these JW conventions and a blurb about parking:

Toledo area hotels, restaurants, attractions, and stores are expected to get an economic boost of up to $16 million this summer as 55,000 Jehovah's Witnesses attend three-day regional conventions downtown. The first of eight conventions was held last weekend at SeaGate Convention Centre, with the first group of about 7,000 adults and children in attendance. The Witnesses last weekend spent an estimated $1 million on lodging, food, and other items, said James Donnelly, president and chief executive of the Greater Toledo Convention and Visitors Bureau."

The 400-room Radisson Hotel is sold out for the eight weekends, the last of which is Aug. 26-28, and started getting reservations for the conventions a year ago, said Michael Sapara, general manager.

Negotiations for this year's Toledo gatherings took about 18 months, Mr. Dunn said. One issue that had to be worked out was parking for attendees, since SeaGate Convention Centre does not have enough nearby parking, he said.

After the citizen brought up this question about parking and the Blade article, James Donnelly went to the microphone to respond. He loudly mentioned the millions of dollars coming into Toledo due to these conventions. Then he addressed the parking issue.

What the Blade left out of the article is the fact that the negotiations included FREE parking for the JWs. Parking for 7000 is not a problem in downtown. Finding that much FREE parking was the issue. Free parking for the JW members was part of the plan to help bring in the conventions. Donnelly said this is the reason why they had to look outside of the downtown area for additional parking because he guaranteed FREE parking. When you add up both free and paid parking, Jim Donnelly said there is already ample parking downtown to support the convention center, the Mud Hens stadium, and a new arena.

Sometimes having the complete story is helpful. And that is a problem I've noticed at both of these meetings: facts are being intentionally left out, misinformation or senseless accusations are advanced.

Another citizen asked if Pizzuti was buying the current sports arena as reported last week by the TFP. Russell said no. Pizzuti has made no offer to buy the arena. Russell said they have had nothing more than discussions about usage of the land the current arena sits on. Not sure what that means, but basically Russell said he had no idea where that rumor came from about Pizzuti buying the arena. The arena is up for sale, but according to Russell, Pizzuti isn't buying it.

Another citizen asked about financing, which isn't really part of this phase one study, but Russell did say, "The city on its own couldn't afford to build an arena of this size."

Someone asked about how much land would be needed to build an arena on the downtown side. The answer is a two block area for the arena and support parking.

Then Bob McCloskey went to the microphone. He brought a prop for dramatic affect. He held up an old sign from 1999 or whenever Toledo voted for the Marina District project. The sign said:

Yes on 1
Marina District For Jobs
Not a Tax

Bob asked if anyone remembered the sign. This is probably the number one argument supporters of an east-side arena keep bringing up, which is Toledoan's voted several years ago to put the arena on the east side. But the sign says Marina District. This is where it gets confusing for me. Somehow the arena was part of that Marina District vote?

The east side will get a $200 million development project that I think covers 125 acres. Unless we're hit by some vicious economic disaster, I believe this Marina District project will happen. It doesn't feel like a pipedream anymore. Too much cleanup of the land has already occurred for this Marina District project to be a bunch of fluff. The east-side will be improved dramatically, and it will be a destination place without an arena.

Except for the sign, I don't think Bob had anything new for this meeting compared to last. He agreed that the city can't afford to build the arena on its own. Bob said financing the arena must a done by the city, the county, the state, the Port Authority, and private funding. He reiterated his belief that the decision has already been made to put the arena on the west side of the river.

Another east-side resident suggested that major corporations and private parking lot owners are forcing the city to put the arena on the west side. I never realized that parking lot owners were such a powerful influence in Toledo.

Here is the Blade's article that covered last week's meeting.

"I think [the study] already presents a bias in favor of downtown," said Kathy Steingraber, 65, of Oregon, who called the parking issue "a nonissue. I don't buy any of that. There's plenty of parking. I think parking lot owners are killing development in Toledo, and we shouldn't allow that to continue."

Do downtown parking lot owners have that much power?

Anyway, at today's meeting, Kathy said some of the same things she said last week for those who weren't at last week's meeting. Except that what she said last week was debunked by Russell of Pizzuti, but that didn't stop her from saying the same damn nonsense again today.

According to Kathy last week, there's this belief out there that the land on the east side of the river can't support the weight of a five-story arena, and that's why the arena will be put on the west side of the river. I'm not that in tune with the city, so that was the first I had heard about the arena's weight problem. Obviously, Kathy disagrees with this weight issue idea. She pointed out that the Middle Grounds is able to support the weight of the Owens Corning building, and therefore the east bank of the river should be able to support the weight of an arena. Has this weight issue ever been brought up before, or is this urban legend?

At last week's meeting, Russell responded to Kathy by saying there's no problem with building an arena on the east bank. If the land is too soft, it just means construction costs go up a little due to putting reinforcement structures deeper into the ground. But there's no weight problem. So Russell solved Kathy's weight issue last week, but Kathy brought it up again at today's meeting. Why? It's not an issue.

Since she was blabbing about the same crap as last week, I started to zone out, but I came back when out of nowhere Kathy started taking ridiculous shots at Donnelly and SeaGate. It was her or someone else that made the smart ass comment about the SeaGate giving free parking to the Jehovah's Witnesses but to nobody else. Again, that was part of the negotiations to bring the conventions to Toledo along with the millions of dollars in business.

Kathy said SeaGate was losing money and/or SeaGate was dying. Off the wall stuff, but like I said, I don't have an ear to the street. Maybe Kathy does. Maybe she's in the know. What about that? Is the SeaGate dying?

Later in the afternoon, I heard a news clip on WSPD at the top of the hour with the WSPD reporter interviewing Kathy, and Kathy said that saving SeaGate is not a good reason for putting the arena on the west side of the river.

Since when is the SeaGate in need of being saved? Kathy seems to have issues with Donnelly/SeaGate. While Kathy was making these statements, Big Jim Donnelly arose out of his seat and got in line behind Kathy, so he could take to the microphone and respond. By the shitty grin Kathy had on her face after she sat down, it was obvious Kathy was pleased with herself for getting Jim fired up. So is there anything to what Kathy says about the SeaGate going in the tank. It seemd Kathy was trying to diminish the SeaGate's importance to downtown Toledo.

Big Jim defended the SeaGate by stating its economic impact to Toledo and its busy schedule. Jim said the SeaGate had money left over at the end of last year. He said the SeaGate isn't dying or losing money. Jim said the goal of the SeaGate is not to make money for itself but to help other businesses make money. Jim said the SeaGate, "puts heads in the beds and butts in the seats."

The theories we have so far:
[] Big Business and private parking lot owners are controlling Toledo politicians.
[] The decision to put the arena on the west side has already been made.
[] The arena will go to the west side in order to save SeaGate.

From these two meetings, the arguments by citizens for putting the arena on the east side are lame and weak at best. The citizens who argue for the west side do a better job of making their case. If scoring a debate, the west side wins.

The two main reasons for putting the arena on the east side are:
[] Toledoans voted for it to go on the east side.
[] It's always been on the east side.

That second reason holds no weight in my opinion. So what if it's always been on the east side. The city is different now than when the old sports aroma was built.

I learned this evening that an informal sports arena existed on the west side before the current one was built. It used to be what is now the Erie Street Market. Wrestling, boxing, concerts, and other events were held in the Erie Street Market warehouse. It acted like an arena back in its day. When the current aroma was built on the east side, the activities moved to the "new thing." So an arena hasn't always been on the east side.

Naturally, the big problem with putting the arena on the west side is location and the cost of acquiring the land and destroying buildings. Two blocks of space are needed. One citizen suggested they look at the area around the streets of Logan, Newton, Broadway, and Erie. He said the area contained 25 acres of land that doesn't contain viable structures. He said building in the warehouse district would destroy viable structures.

John Madigan went to the microphone to fill us in on charter section 79. He said the city can't allocate funds for an arena without a vote of the people. I guess this already happened with that vote six years ago, which of course is the main argument for putting the arena on the east side. John said that if the decision is made to put the arena on the west side, another vote by the people is required. I wonder how many loopholes are in that charter section 79?

An east-side resident said, "People on the east side support the whole city, but the opposite isn't true." He's got a point there. There is a perceived image problem with the east side. He said a lot of people in Toledo have "utter disdain for the east side." Well, explain the $200 million Marina District project the east side is getting.

A resident who lives in the warehouse district complained about all the bars around Fifth Third field. She too made an absurd statement by claiming that all of the new businesses are bars.

What? How can a resident who lives there say that? How can any of us familiar with the warehouse district take her complaints seriously? I'm guessing she hasn't been on St. Clair St. recently. Sure, Frickers and the Durty Bird are on St. Clair, but so are Socrates Cafe and Creamery, The Market on St. Clair, Fastenal, Downtown Latte, Markey's Audio-Video, the 20 North art gallery, Jack Wilson's Sculpture. Those aren't bars. That's one small street.

This same person complained about the noise at night in the warehouse district. She claims she hasn't been to sleep before 4:00 a.m. on a Friday night in several weeks. I guess she is one of those who opposes the city's Entertainment District plan. Some in the warehouse district are afraid the area could get too rowdy. But isn't that a good thing? Downtowns are suppose to be noisy. It's called activity. It's called a vibrant downtown.

The developer of the Bartley Lofts responded. He said bars are a economically viable for the downtown. He brought up Toledo's "brain drain." It's young people who are leaving the city. Who goes to the bars? Mainly young people. He said the bars are needed to make the downtown a fun place to go. He believes that if downtown Toledo is perceived as a fun place to be, that will attract people to live downtown, and it may attract businesses to Toledo.

Near the end of the meeting, Dave Ball went to the microphone. He said in his five or so years of research, the best place for the arena is the west side of the river. He didn't give a specific spot, just the west side. Dave said from his talks with developers and/or community leaders in other cities, the best thing for the city is to put the arena close to the convention center.

Dave discussed traffic issues with an arena on the east side. "Experts" have told him that after a large event is over at the east-side arena, people will be cutting through side streets in the nearby neighborhoods, trying to find the quickest way out of there. This will supposedly cause the nearby neighborhoods to deteriorate because of the lack of safety on the streets from all the traffic.

Ball also said not all of the parking lots are owned by private individuals. He said the county and the city own some of the lots.

Near the end of the meeting, talk about the need for a $60 million parking garage on the east side came up again. Parker of CSL said that 4000 spaces are needed for a 10,000 seat arena. He said that on most nights, only half of the lot or garage would be used. This prompted Kathy to speak up and ask the crowd, why not build a 2000 space garage to save money?

She asked the same damn question last week, and Parker answered her last week. Today he didn't respond. Last week, Parker said you can't build a 2000-space garage because on those nights when 4000 spaces are needed, there will be a lot of angry people complaining about not finding a sparking space, and that could cause people to not want to go downtown in the future.

Leave the thinking to the pros. Parker has been involved with many other arena developments around the country.

It's a massive waste of prime waterfront property to put a surface parking lot along the east side of the river. A parking garage right along the east bank would be an eyesore. If the Marina District already existed, then the east side would have a case. Hotels, restaurants, and entertainment spots are already on the west side.

Finally, I wonder if residents and business owners in the warehouse district want the arena on the their side of the river?

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by testuser - 6744 words - 37 min read
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