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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
AKRON - A judge has started the clock on the foreclosure and transfer of the dilapidated Rubber Bowl. After it ticks down to zero, city administrators plan to tear down the old football stadium, eating $200,000 in initial demolition costs, and maybe millions more to stabilize a once vibrant community asset.
Summit County Common Pleas Judge Jason Wells issued a final decree of foreclosure to Team 1 Properties, the Canton company that bought the property from University of Akron for $38,000 in 2013. The order starts a 28-day clock in which Team 1 can avoid forfeiture by settling the back taxes, court costs and other penalties.
But that won't happen. Paying just the tax bill would require Team 1 to come up with $196,166.93 in less than a month.
"Unfortunately they just can't," Team 1 Properties' attorney William Corgan said. "And investors aren't wiling to put the money in to redeem the taxes without the security that they'll be able to operate the Rubber Bowl as a music venue in the future."
Team 1 has neglected repairs and taxes on the property as business plans for a sports complex then a music venue fell through. Corgan blames the inaction of the city, which was presented with the music venue plan in April. Under the public-private partnership, Team 1 Properties would have gifted the Rubber Bowl to the city, which would have then leased it back to Team 1 Properties.
With the city's blessing, Corgan said private investors from Colorado to Ohio would have felt comfortable enough to pump millions of dollars into the project. But the city rejected the plan as the property racked up housing violations and presented safety concerns.
Team 1 never had the money to build anything at the Rubber Bowl. They only ever had a vision. Originally, the plan was to bring in a United States Football League franchise team. But the football league folded after a top-official was caught embezzling funds.
That idea collapsed. Time passed. The property fell further into disrepair. And, with City Council not keen on the music venue pitch, county prosecutors moved to foreclose on the tax delinquent property in March on behalf of the Summit County Land Bank, a quasi-public redevelopment organization that acquires and revitalizes under utilized land.
Corgan and Team 1 received the final foreclosure decree last Thursday.
At the end of the 28-day period, assuming Team 1 does not redeem the property, the Rubber Bowl would be transferred via the Summit County Sheriff's Office "free and clear" to the land bank.
Patrick Bravo, executive director at the land bank, said the property owners had arranged for a clean transfer but the deal never materialized.
"We were not able to do the conveyance in lieu of foreclosure with Team 1, like we had anticipated," said Bravo.
The land bank's participation speeds up a foreclosure process that sometimes takes years. Bravo hopes to transfer the Rubber Bowl to the city of Akron by Thanksgiving. City spokesperson Ellen Lander-Nischt said Mayor Dan Horrigan's first priority after acquiring the property is the "safety and security of the structure." That would require money out of pocket and potentially millions more, from somewhere.
"The initial demolition cost is estimated at $200,000, which would cover an emergency partial demolition to eliminate the safety hazards of the structure," Lander-Nischt said. "The portion that would be completely removed during the partial demo would be the section closest to Derby Downs, including the scoreboard area and press box. "
Of particular concern is the half of the stadium propping up George Washington Blvd.
That "would remain intact at this point," Lander-Nischt said. "The City is also preparing to make a request for state capital funds to help defray the costs of a total demolition of the remaining structure."
The old stadium is unsecured and falling apart. Its neighbors include the Soap Box Derby and the Akron Fulton Airport.
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