Three hundred area businesses will help decide whether a new sports arena will be built in the greater Toledo area.
Tom Chema, president of Gateway Consulting, said the purpose of a recently mailed survey is to provide feedback on the location, if business suites will be needed, if businesses will purchase season tickets and if club seats should be built.
Chema said once the survey results are compiled, his office will make a recommendation to the county commissioners in June.
”If the commissioners don’t accept the recommendation, then the project’s over,” he said. ”If the commissioners accept the recommendation, the next phase will be to go ahead and do it.”
Chema said there was no scientific process to determine who would receive the survey.
”We wanted a cross-section of businesses interested in this area,” he said. ”Businesses were selected by number of employees and geographic location. We asked for a list of businesses from the Chamber of Commerce and they sent us 1,800,” he said. ”We sent a letter to about 300 businesses in the greater Lucas County area.”
The letters were sent in April stating an e-mail would follow with an attachment to an online survey. Respondents will be given until the end of May to complete the survey, Chema said.
Chema said the first phase of the sports arena project is to provide a feasibility analysis.
”We wanted an analysis and action plan to see if a sports arena can work and is affordable,” he said. ”We want to generate enough responses to see that it makes economic sense to build this.”
Commissioner Pete Gerken said the survey was designed to collect community thoughts on a new sports arena.
”It’s a community-based project,” he said. ”And businesses are critical to fund this project.”
The survey letter contained the electronic signatures of Gerken, Chema and Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak, but not the signature of Commissioner Maggie Thurber. Chema said it was a clerical error by his company.
”We screwed up,” Chema said. ”The letter was sent out prematurely — it was put together by our public relations firm and sent out before any commissioner or I saw it.”
Chema said the letter should have contained the three commissioners’ signatures and not his.
”There’s not a whole lot we could do once the surveys were out,” he said.
Gerken said he did not preview the letter before it was sent out.
”I didn’t see the survey,” he said. ”It was a misstep on their part.”
Commissioner Thurber said no one from Gateway Consulting contacted her before the letter was sent out.
”I haven’t seen it,” she said. ”It’s not my responsibility to reach out to the consultant who is a county employee.”
Thurber said she is concerned over the ”clerical error.”
”I am extremely concerned this is not a minor clerical error,” she said. ”It does not inspire confidence and on behalf of the county, I’m concerned about the going ahead of this project.”
Thurber said one of her biggest concerns is which businesses received the survey.
”I want to make sure there are unbiased answers,” she said. ”Sometimes the way questions are worded and given only two choices of response, but there are answers in between the two options.”
In an e-mail statement, Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said she was referring all questions to Chema.
In an e-mail to Toledo Free Press, survey respondent Paul Sneider said he will not endorse a governmental organization competing in the entertainment or commercial business.
”It is not the roll [sic] of government to entertain their constituents,” Sneider said. ”It has been tried 2000 years ago in Rome and lead to its decline, decadence and destruction.”
Sneider said some of the negatives of the arena issue include ”additional taxpayer costs for infrastructure improvements and expansion, giving tax breaks to new companies but not to existing struggling companies and previous negative experiences with Portside, Civic Auditorium (now the Erie Street Market) and eminent domain procedures near Jeep.”
The positives to the issue include ”the re-election of the advocating politicians, the small percentage of Lucas County individuals who would use the facility and an even smaller percentage of individuals who would be employed at the facility,” Sneider said.