John K. Hartman
Author of The USA Today Way books
 
 
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 national championship.

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.

 

John K. Hartman is a professor of journalism at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.  He is the author of two books, "The USA Today Way 2: The Future" (2000) and "The USA Today Way" (1992).  He has examined much of the research done on young adult newspaper readership and is a widely quoted source on the topic.  Jacqueline Hartman provided editing assistance to the author.

In August 2008 Dr. Hartman covered and blogged the Democratic National Convention for the Mount Pleasant, Mich., Morning Sun. In 2008 Dr. Hartman was named the Al-Jazirah Newspaper Chair for International Journalism at King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and visited the kingdom to lecture, teach and give seminars. He is scheduled to return in 2009. To learn more about King Saud University, visit jrc.ksu.edu.sa/en

Copyright 2009, John K. Hartman.  All Rights Reserved.
John.Hartman@dacor.net