Venue Of No Return

Seven parcels of a 1,200-acre site near Toledo, Ohio, where an amphitheatre and arena were once being built, is expected to be auctioned off June 22nd.

On the acreage are an amphitheatre roof and the elevated lawn area, plus the foundation that was to be an arena basement.

The $48 million Rossford Arena Amphitheatre – featuring a 15,000-seat shed and a 12,000-seat pro hockey arena – was expected to open in 2000. Instead, construction stopped at 20 percent completion, according to The Toledo Blade, leaving the city of Rossford with a white elephant.

Now, the Wood County sheriff’s office is expected to auction off the 88-acre parcel the unfinished shed sits on with a starting bid of $730,633. The entire area is expected to go for a minimum of $1.4 million.

East of I-75 and south of the Ohio Turnpike, the area has been called the busiest intersection in America – the Crossroads of America, according to the Blade. Rossford city officials envisioned in 1999 that the area would be perfect for an amphitheatre to rival the DTE Energy Music Theatre near Clarkston, Mich., and an arena that would house a professional hockey team, according to the paper.

Excavation began in May 1999 with a one-year turnaround on completion. The Detroit Red Wings and the city had already approved moving the club’s farm team, the Adirondack Red Wings, from Glens Falls, N.Y., to Rossford, the paper said. Olympia Entertainment agreed to run the complex.

Temporary financing of $2.4 million was obtained from the Northwest Ohio District Council of Carpenters and a $5 million loan from Perrysburg Township, which annexed the land to Rossford.

The Rossford Arena Amphitheater Authority stopped work that same year when it failed to get affordable financing. The temporary loans remain unpaid. Debts have reached more than $18 million and at least one lawsuit is pending.

“They cut corners and thought that it would all wash out in the end when the financing took place,” said Louie Bauer Jr., who was mayor from 1975 to 1991. “And like a house of cards, it all fell apart.”

Deadlines meant the project went ahead without permanent financing, according to the mayor at the time, Mark Zuchowski. Among other problems, the agreement with the Red Wings leaked to the press and the information led critics to try to get the arena scrapped, Zuchowski said.

“Negative forces were attacking that part of the project and stalled it out,” he said. “And interest rates went higher and supporters of the project ran for cover. They tended to stay away from the negative publicity. It wasn’t that we didn’t have a good idea.”

The Rossford Arena Amphitheater Authority abandoned work on the arena in October 2000 and focused on the shed, according to the Blade. Six months later, Perrysburg Township sued the city and Zuchowski for repayment of the $5 million temporary loan. The case reached the Ohio Supreme Court in 2003 and a year later, the court ruled the township could move forward with the lawsuit.

Foreclosures were filed against the authority last year when it couldn’t pay the nearly $1 million in property tax it owed.

“Without financing, a bank wouldn’t say, ‘Go ahead and start building that new house, and we’ll see if we can approve this later,'” Bauer said. “This is a major black eye for the community and the area.”

Zuchowski and current mayor Bill Verbosky Jr. said they believe the amphitheatre is still viable.

“We have no plans for an arena at this time, but we would like to have the amphitheatre completed in some form,” Verbosky said.