UA to sell Rubber Bowl to firm planning USFL team [The Akron Beacon Journal]
(Akron Beacon Journal (OH) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 31--University of Akron trustees agreed Wednesday to sell the dormant Rubber Bowl to a Canton marketing company that wants it as the home of a United States Football League franchise.
Team 1 Marketing will pay $38,000 for the 6.8-acre bowl footprint plus an additional foot around that perimeter.
The company said it plans to lease nearby city-owned property for event parking.
"It's looking good," said Bill Dunn, vice president of marketing for Team 1. "It would have to take a major snag in the negotiations to get in the way [of the football team]."
The already-named Akron Fire would be the first football team to play in the horseshoe-shaped bowl since UA moved to InfoCision Stadium on campus in 2009.
The Rubber Bowl got its start as a grass-roots effort by civic leaders in 1939. Residents raised some of the money needed to unlock federal funds for the stadium, the 80th in Ohio to be built by the Works Progress Administration.
The facility hosted rock concerts, high school games, wrestling and myriad other events. The city sold it to UA in 1970 for $1.
Team 1 started talking about buying the stadium from UA last spring. The university was interested in selling and enthusiasm was high that the deal could be concluded quickly.
The sale almost fell through when Team 1 learned it would have to pay about $753,000 in yearly property taxes on the facility's appraised value of $23.7 million. Summit County reappraised the property at $2.5 million, which brought the yearly taxes to about $79,000, according to Ray Valle, Summit County's director of real estate.
The university, as a tax-supported entity, didn't pay any property taxes.
Now Team 1 will concentrate on improving the facility, Dunn said.
He said the company would update the press box, concession stands and locker rooms and install new scoreboards and seating. The facility is structurally sound, but needs a lot of cosmetic improvements, he said.
The main access will continue to be on the sloping, winding road from George Washington Boulevard that also leads to the All-American Soap Box Derby offices. A second entrance will be improved for VIP access, Dunn said.
He said he didn't have an estimate of the cost, but by late this summer, the result will be a "transformation" of the stadium.
The company expects to announce in a month or so that it will purchase one of eight teams in the fledgling league. Other cities are under consideration.
To buttress its bottom line, the company also aims to have other events at the bowl, from concerts to circuses to mixed martial arts competitions, Dunn said.
Ted Curtis, UA vice president for capital planning and facilities management, said the university was spending about $50,000 a year on upkeep for the bowl in its last years in use and about $20,000 a year for security since it has been shuttered.
That cost will go away after Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio Department of Administration sign off on the sale.
But the university still won't be done with the property, which is about 7 miles from campus in southeast Akron.
It still owns the John W. Heisman Lodge, a 14,000-square-foot facility with stone fireplaces that is built into a hill. The city turned over the lodge to the university in 1988, and UA named it for its legendary football coach from the 1890s. The university used the lodge as a pregame reception area during the Rubber Bowl's heyday, but the building, like the Rubber Bowl, has fallen into disuse.
Team 1 didn't want the lodge, and the university doesn't have any use for it now, Curtis said.
UA considered moving the lodge to InfoCision Stadium in downtown Akron, but that cost would have been prohibitive, he said.
"We hope that someone will come along and want to use it," Curtis said.
In other action, UA trustees agreed to award President Luis Proenza his annual performance payment of $25,000 for meeting one-year goals. His base salary is $425,250.
Proenza's goals were to sustain enrollment growth, maintain financial integrity, develop and nurture strategic partnerships, and enhance the university's facilities and reputation.
Board Chairman Richard Pogue praised Proenza for his "outstanding" job performance and said he would have awarded him more "if the financial times were better."
Carol Biliczky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3729.
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