Saturday, April 02, 2005

Keep Hockey in Toledo



Attended my first hockey game of the year tonight - only a few more Storm games left this season.

The Sports Arena opened in 1947. Walking in seemed like going back in time, yet my ticket reads 2005.

A boisterous crowd, but the place was maybe half full. Fans erupted as Toledo scored first, and they sounded great as the natural acoustics are perfect (though the piped in music lacked any acoustics whatsoever)

The fact that's its an intimate venue gives it a certain charm, and everyone I talked to was friendly. It was a young crowd, too.

As I walked around between periods I sought the opinions of people who worked there.

"Where do you think hockey can be played in Toledo that makes the most money?" Half said downtown, half said East Side.
The East Side half cited parking as a major factor. I'm not convinced acres of asphalt on our riverfront is good land use. If it does get built in East Toledo, there's got to be a parking structure away from the riverfront.

"Where do we get the money to build?" More than one employee said that the city shouldnt spend a taxpayers' dime. But, the public-private partnership that's needed to finance and build the new arena will have to buy the land from Tim Gladieux. And he'll certainly seek to do the food service at the new arena, as he does at the ballpark. I'm not against profit, but reinvesting in the business is required. For instance, the faded yellow curtains in the attached building (that greet visitors to International Park) are horrid, embarassing & have been there untouched for years. The City will absorb infrastructure costs (subject to negotiations.)

"Did the NHL strike help or hurt the Storm? And does the uncertainty of next year's NHL season put investors of a new Toledo arena "on ice"? The consensus was that the strike hurt more at the beginning and now at the end of the Storm's season. One guy said that if the NHL and Storm go dark next year, he knows dozens of folks who'll just show up at Tam-o-Shantern in Sylvania just to watch a game of hockey.

"Do you live in Toledo?" Everyone I spoke to (about a dozen in total) lived in Toledo. I then reminded them of how the Mud Hens ballpark got financed, through the sale of suites and naming rights, and that the key to the sales was listening to the market.

An important distinction between the ballpark & arena projects is that the ballpark is owned by Lucas County and the profits get returned to the taxpayers of Lucas County. The Toledo Storm and the Toledo Sports Arena are privately owned and operated. A $50 or $60 million outlay of taxpayer dollars that will enrich private investors is not being considered, and even if it was, no local gov't has that kind of money. John Harris and Dan Saevig at toledoblade.com share valuable insight on this point. Thus, I believe the percentage of private dollars needed to finance an arena is higher than the ballpark needed. Receipts from both venues are/would be used to help retire the debt for construction.

The City of Toledo's arena developer, the Pizzuti Co., is in the field right now conducting a feasibility study. The Pizzuti's did Nationwide Arena for the Columbus Bluejackets.

One thing I concluded tonight: hockey is a product that will sell here. Its exciting to watch, you can feel the roar of the crowd when something good happens, and its appealing to families with children at any age, appealing to groups of young people, and I think would strongly appeal to the same folks who sit at the suites at Fifth-Third Field. It would be a place you'd want to take clients, guests and family from out of town.

The success of hockey in town I believe can meet or perhaps exceed the success of baseball here. Those in the private sector who made large investments in the Mud Hens really need to consider making another buy. It would be a huge lift to our civic pride, and would increase tax dollars we could use improving our neighborhoods and fighting crime.

10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Im glad a city official has actually come down to the game and just sat back and watched and listened.....The crowds down at 1 main street can be electric at times, and we've stuck through the team in the good years and the bad. We've had alot of fans stand up since the announcement of the team suspending operations after this season and volunteer their time in effort and help anyway they can, and have gotten good response from almost everywhere.The only exception is the fan who brought their knowledge and spoke with Denny Schafer on wspd radio,He had no problem ripping on what happens down at the game but admitted himself that he has not attended a game in many years,so much to the fact he complained about the smoking, little did he know the sports arena went smoke free at least 4 seasons ago....

The loyal fans are coming together and trying to do anything we can to get Storm hockey to stay in Toledo.

Our last regular season home game the fans are throwing a tailgate party with anyone and everyone invited to join,including the news media...
Saturday april 9th starting at 2 pm near the back entrance to the sports arena...I personally invite yourself Mr Szollosi,along with any other political figure in the city of Toledo to attend.

7:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We've known that the Sports Arena needed to be replaced for number of years...and I mean NUMBER of years. It hasn't been a priority to build an arena among the elected officials, civic leaders or the owners of the arena. We have missed many years of opportunity to have a larger, more accessible beautiful arena to host big-name concerts, minor team basketball games, arena football games, NCAA basketball tournaments, and so on. We Toledoans have been going to Chicago, Detroit or Cleveland to see events for many years that would not come to Toledo. Two major points to acknowledge 1) money has been spent elsewhere outside of this region for years..imagine if you multiply the number of people and dollar-wise to spend at an event it's safely to assume that we've lost revenue opportunties of keeping millions of dollars here in Toledo 2) Sports Arena is NOT in compliance to be able to host events due to lack of infrastructure since its over a half-century old. (when was the last time they renovated or retrofitted this arena?)--why do we citizens of this region deserve such a crappy arena at the tail-end of the river?

Many of the times the premiere events would go to Savage, Stranahan or Seagate and at times if none of those three facilities are available they would skip town. The problem is none of the facilities are large enough to attract bigger events which would bring more sales revenue for hotels, restaurants, businesses, and etc.

I hate to sound repetitive but its the truth. Look at the Fifth Third Field folks--get a clue! Now if we can rise above laziness and politics of where the arena should be, the construction of the arena would be underway by now. We have the people, the knowledge, the skills to make this project happen. Bottom line it's not an issue about money...it's an issue about PRIORITY!

8:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's time for the local elected officials to step up.

The only time we see them is for proclamations. Heck they don't even come down at election time.

There are a lot of false expectations at a hockey game. As a local radio host stated you would have to desensitize your child if you brought them down to a game. The truth is we are drawing more families to the rink and while there may be few legitimate complaints all in all it's something that families can do in order to spend quality time together.

We need to keep hockey here in Toledo while constructing a new facility or restructuring a county owned building....

The taxpayers have already paid for the Seagate Center so let's put it to use with a 7 month tenant (hockey) and fill in with other events.

Mr. Szollosi thanks for taking 3 hours out of your schedule to come down and witness for yourself what hockey is all about in this town. It's about togetherness and community involvement, while have a lot fun.

Storm fans know no boundries....rich, poor,race....we treat everyone the same way...I hope that more citizens come out to see what they have been missing and help us support a minor professional hockey team.

8:20 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

You seem to be right on again on this one Frank. Thanks for the "assist." Hockey in Toledo is great entertainment, and a source of civic pride. It definitely could be better though. I think most people go to the Storm games DESPITE the fact that they are played at the Sports Arena. To be honest, in the last 10 or so years, I have never even considered taking anyone from out of town to that place, it is really embarrassing.

I too believe that business owners deserve to make a profit, that IS the point. At the same time, they have a responsibility to use some of their resources to enhance or at least maintain the value and integrity of the community it earns a profit from. Like you said, reinvestment is required. Most progressive business owners already know and do this.

Location of a newer facility certainly needs to be open for discussion, so long as it remains within Toledo (its not called the East Side Storm, or Vistula Storm, its the TOLEDO Storm). Hopefully we can take the unbiased advice of experts/civic planners in this area. I think we need to commit to building adequate facilities such as a well thought out parking structure to increase the available land near the waterfront for further development not asphalt. This could be a great boon to our local economy if we plan smartly and progressively and let natural market forces take hold.

I hope that our elected officials will get to work full strength on this one, not shorthanded, after some of you got penalized by some local officials who made a questionable call trying to put some of you in the penalty box! Lets work more like the Storm, as a team, to win this one for the pride and progress of our community.

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not against profit, but reinvesting in the business is required. For instance, the faded yellow curtains in the attached building (that greet visitors to International Park) are horrid, embarassing & have been there untouched for years.

Thank You for pointing out that in order to make money; you have to INVEST money. That is one thing that Tim never seems to do. Ever since he took over ownership perks for fans have been cut back more and more.

Also I am glad to see a city offical step up to the plate and take the time to come down to the arena and take in game to see what it is all about.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Frank said...

Great to see support for the team reflected here.

I've found a few recent stories of interest: First, from the Junior Hockey blog comes "City Makes Out Like A Bandit" published by the Texarkana-Gazette.

Also from Junior Hockey is news on hockey in Fargo, where a sales tax is on the ballot in May to pay for a new facility. State law would have to be changed to allow a municipality to levy a sales tax here in Ohio.

9:56 AM  
Blogger John said...

I've never been to the Sports Arena in Toledo but I know some of the people who do go to Storm games because they travel 8 hours to our barn and cheer for their team. If the ones I've met are any indication of the rest of the fans of the Storm then I'd probably feel right at home there.
I want to point out another angle as I see it. I love the old venues as much as anyone. It gives a guy a sense of knowing the game from the inside. I also know that times change and, unfortunately, these souls of the sport will die. Toledo has a unique opportunity to move forward without burying the past. The hockey tradition in Toledo is as strong as anywhere. Those people will be at the game no matter what. They will drive through blizzards to get to the game. They don't mind the place being a little run down. They are fans of the game. They will budget money in July for season tickets. Money that is hard to come by for some. These are the heart and soul of hockey in Toledo. Do not EVER forget them. The same goes for the place I'm from. I didn't think we needed a new arena but I'm damn glad they built one.
Then there are the casual fans. These are the fans who might have friends or family in from out of town and want something to do to kill some time. They want new restrooms and flashy concession stands. They want to be able to take their family and be be "entertained". They buy tickets too. They are no less important to the game than the diehards. They, however, won't leave the comfort of home to drive through hell to get to the game. They want to park 30 feet from their seat. They have disposable income they can spend on anything they want. Your challenge is to get them to spend it in Toledo. Hopefully at a Storm game but, nonetheless, in Toledo. A new arena is essential to continued growth for cities like ours. The industrial towns in the midwest have to re-invent themselves to survive or they will go the way of the dinosaurs and the ones who couldn't/wouldn't adapt.
No, I've never been to the Sports Arena. I've heard from countless fans all over that "you have to experience it". Friday I will leave the comfort of my home and travel 8 hours to see for myself what I've been missing. Hopefully I'll see you at the game... For a long time to come.

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

Frank, as I am pleased you attended a game and thought highly of it...
Jack Ford immediatly stated that he would buy a season ticket for next season,He wanted to do anything he could do to help the team stay operating. My question is can we expect the same from you for next season...
Every ticket sold helps.

3:23 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

Storm seeks extra time in Wednesday, April 12th editon of toledoblade.com. East Coast Hockey League officials and Storm folks are keeping the door open on next season, at least through May 2nd. We'll have to get them the results of the City of Toledo sponsored feasibility study by then.

Per Brian, a local electrician and leader of the Storm Fan Club, I'll also call in for some type of season ticket package, as well.

9:39 AM  
Blogger Frank said...

4/19/05 Joined Mayor Ford at City Council tonight and gave Mike Miller a deposit check for Storm tickets. Keep up the good work Storm fans.

11:13 PM  

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