Article published in the Toledo Blade Saturday, March 4, 2006
A plan to take Toledo out of the shadows
By JOHN K. HARTMAN
LET'S play "what if" about a new downtown Toledo arena.
A 10,000-seat facility near the Convention Center recently was
proposed. To me, that is thinking small. The last thing a struggling
Toledo needs to do is think small.
What if Toledo decided to build a mega indoors sports facility along
the riverfront in the vicinity of the convention venue?
I would model it after the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., only add a
retractable roof. The Carrier Dome was built in 1980. It seats 50,000
people for football and men's and women's basketball games and
concerts and other mass events, according to its Web site.
I would call it the Toledo Dome or the Glass Dome unless a local
company is willing to pay millions for naming rights. For instance,
if Sky Bank ponies up, call it the Sky Dome.
I would include ice capability so that intercollegiate and
professional hockey could be played there as well as figure skating
and ice events.
The University of Toledo would have to be persuaded to have its
football and basketball teams play there.
Basketball would not be too hard to convince because Savage Hall has
seen better days.
Football would be a tougher sell because of the sentimental
attachment to and investment in the Glass Bowl. But a 50,000-seat
facility would enable the Rockets to afford to pay to attract
big-name opponents and the Rockets soon could move out of the
mid-major Mid-America Conference into a major conference.
The key figure in all this would have to be Tom Amstutz, the Rockets'
outstanding head football coach and perhaps the most popular figure
in Toledo because of his winning ways and unflagging loyalty to the
university and the community.
If "Toledo Tom" enthusiastically endorsed the Toledo/Glass/Sky Dome
at the start, he would bring along most reluctant traditionalist
fans. The possibility of UT competing for a national championship
five or 10 years down the road is a powerful persuasion tool.
UT would need to field intercollegiate men's and women's hockey
teams, a very expensive undertaking, but one that would open up an
additional opportunity to compete for national championships.
Let's face it: fans are most motivated when schools compete for the
Where does that leave the Toledo Storm? Its appeal is limited because
it is a minor league team. It could build a new venue near the Ice
Arena in East Toledo or throw in with the new facility.
The Toledo/Glass/Sky Dome would have an array of curtains that could
be lowered to screen off all but 10,000 seats for less attended
events, similar to what the Quicken (formerly Gund) Arena in
Cleveland does for - you guessed it - the Mid-American Conference
Men's and Women's Basketball Championships.
Big-time sports are key to attracting young people. Once major league
intercollegiate sports come to Toledo, all manner of entertainment
venues such as nightclubs and restaurants will spring up in the downtown.
The University of Toledo, now on the verge of being merged with the
Medical University of Ohio, would need to move some of its signature
academic programs to the downtown next to the Toledo/Glass/Sky Dome.
The College of Business would offer good synergies to a downtown
trying to attract corporate headquarters and high-tech installations.
Ditto for the College of Engineering and College of Law.
UT could put the land where the Glass Bowl sits to good use to expand
the campus and beautify it. And the business, engineering, and law
facilities there could be converted to benefit other programs,
including some that would come from the medical college.
It has been said that bringing about change on a college campus is
harder than moving a cemetery. It would take tremendous forward
thinking and sacrifice across the board to make all this happen, but
what an impression it would make on the outside world!
Toledo would be seen as stodgy no more.
New highways would need to be built to provide safe, easy-in and
easy-out links to adjacent parking facilities.
The construction of a new mega stadium in downtown Toledo would keep
hundreds of building trades workers, engineers, architects, and
contractors humming for three to five years.
For downtown Toledo to grow and prosper, it must lift itself out of
the shadow of Detroit and Ohio's 3 Cs (Cleveland, Columbus, and
Cincinnati) and establish its own unique attractions and identity.
Imagine a downtown Toledo anchored by a 50,000 (or make it 51,000 for
bragging rights) indoor stadium where the University of Toledo's
football, basketball, and hockey teams play and where concerts and
other mass events are held year round.
It is surrounded by the Mud Hens ballpark, the convention center, the
Portside casino complex (it could happen) and select facilities from
UT and the Medical University of Ohio, along with hotels,
restaurants, nightclubs, movie screens, and shopping.
The entire downtown waterfront would thrive with commercial and
condominium developments as well.
Toledo's downtown would be the envy of the United States by 2010.
If you build it, they will come.
If you build it, I will come.
John K. Hartman is a professor of journalism at Central Michigan
University and a resident of Bowling Green.