The Toledo Walleye hockey team will break in the new Lucas County Arena with its season opener Oct. 16.
“We’re ready for the public to experience the new arena,” said Steve Miller, general manager of the Lucas County Arena and SeaGate Convention Centre for SMG, the company that manages both facilities.
A public open house will be hosted Oct. 3 from noon to 4 p.m.
Miller will be responsible for the daily operations of the arena, as well as all events other than Walleye hockey and Bullfrogs arena football. More than 70 events have been booked for 2009 and 2010, he said.
The Lucas County Arena will seat 7,500 fans for sporting events and 9,000 for concerts, replacing the former Toledo Sports Arena’s 5,230-seat capacity.
More than 500,000 people are projected to attend events annually at the new arena, according to Gateway Consultants Group, which is promoting the arena as it has Fifth Third Field.
“We have a banquet facility that can seat between 200 to 250 people,” Miller said. “We have a couple of other party areas around the arena where we can do pre-game and post-game parties and will also have four party suites that can be rented as well.”
The building has also been designed to attract big-name talent like Daughtry, comedian Jeff Dunham and the tour cast of “So You Think You Can Dance.”
The arena has a “great rigging grid [to] be able to accommodate large shows that tour the United States,” Miller said. “We have plenty of dressing room space. We’ve got a great acoustic building as well. It’s going to be very acoustically sound for the artists. They’ve done a great job designing the acoustics, so that you’re going to have a great concert experience when you come.”
The arena joins the Downtown entertainment district that includes Fifth Third Field, the SeaGate Convention Centre, Valentine Theatre and Toledo Museum of Art. More than 2.5 million visitors are expected to visit these attractions annually, according to SMG.
“It’s a first-class facility and a positive change from the old sports arena,” said Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop. “It was not an easy project to plan, pay for or build, but it will be the top facility of its size in the country.”
The Lucas County Arena is a 270,000-square-feet facility with an overall price tag of $105 million. The cost of construction materials and labor will total about $75 million, according to SMG.
The arena includes 20 private suites and 850 club level seats located above the main seating area.
Four additional party suites, two on the club level and two on the main concourse, will be available for rental to the public on an individual game basis.
Club level seats offer a separate concourse, lounge and access to two outdoor terraces that can be rented for private parties. The club level lounge features a semi-circular bar and overlooks the entire playing surface.
The private concourse provides concessions, restrooms and television monitors that will show all major sporting events on cable and closed circuit telecasts.
A 20-by-30-foot electronic video board is located on the wall at the opposite end from the club lounge. It will serve as the main scoreboard, while simultaneously showing replays and other video features.
A 600-foot-long ribbon video board runs around three sides of the arena on the facing of the club level. It will flash scores, statistics, sponsorships and special promotions.
Miller and Joe Napoli, president and general manager of the Toledo Walleye hockey, said they had options for a traditional four-sided scoreboard hung over center ice. However, they chose the large screen at one end with the ribbon boards because of the flexibility and technology.
Miller said fans will appreciate the wide concourses, concessions and restrooms on both levels of the arena. A special lounge, named The Aquarium, is located on the main concourse with large glass doors that will open onto a patio on Huron Street.
“It’s better than I envisioned and exceeded all my expectations,” said Mark Hummer of Perrysburg, the Walleye season ticket holder who recently became the first fan to sit in the last seat installed in the arena.
Hummer represents about 2,000 fans who have already purchased season tickets for the Walleye. The team is aiming to sell 2,500 season tickets by the opening of hockey season, said Napoli, who is also president and general manager of the Bullfrogs arena football team that will begin playing in the spring of 2010.
“They certainly did it right. It’s a fabulous facility that will be great for hockey fans,” said Hummer, a longtime season ticket holder of the former Toledo Storm and Goaldigger teams.
Walleye Head Coach Nick Vitucci said the new arena will be a good place to play and watch hockey games.
“It’s been a great recruiting tool and provides players with an opportunity to play in an arena of this quality,” Vitucci said.
“There will be no better place to play in the ECHL than Toledo with the Lucas County Arena,” said Mark Bernard, general manager of minor league hockey operations for the Chicago Blackhawks, who announced an affiliation agreement with the Toledo Walleye.
“I played and coached in Toledo,” Bernard said. “Nick is a great coach and the hockey fans here are knowledgeable and passionate. The Chicago Blackhawks are thrilled with this agreement.”
“It’s special for me because Mark and I grew up together in Hamilton, Ontario, and played hockey together,” Vitucci said.
The Walleye are excited to be affiliated with two of the original six NHL teams with the agreements they have with Chicago and the Detroit Red Wings, Vitucci said.
Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken said the opening of the arena has been a long time in coming.
“When we started in 2006, we had talked about it for six or seven years. My first, immediate goal was to stop the conversation and start the project,” he said. “My next goal was to bring it in on time and on budget, which I think we have.”
Toledo Free Press Staff Writer Alissa Romstadt contributed to this story.