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Government & Politics

Amid a Move for Foreclosure, Rubber Bowl Owners Push Akron for a Partnership

photo of Rubber Bowl
TIM RUDELL
/
WKSU

The owner of the Rubber Bowl says plans to renovate the arena into a viable venue are being stymied by the City of Akron. It's the latest incarnation of Team 1 Marketing's  plans for the crumbling football stadium, and city officials have expressed concern they could be left with a facility they don't want and can't maintain.

The Rubber Bowl was used by the University of Akron until 2008, but has been sitting dormant and has been increasingly vandalized ever since. Canton-based Team 1 Marketing bought the venue in 2013 with promises to fix up the stadium and have an arena football team playing there within a year. But that never happened.

Last week, the Summit County Land Bank started foreclosure on the property, which has accumulated close to $200,000 in unpaid taxes. Team 1’s Sean Mason says his investors (AEL Capital, which could not be reached for comment) are ready to put $10 million into the 77-year-old arena so it can host three two-day festivals each year. But the city has not rezoned the property so it can be used for that purpose.

“Blossom [Music Center]: they’re just doing one-day type shows so you don’t have a large amount of people that are really staying. Festival-style actually gives an opportunity for restaurants and hotels to get economic impact.”

Mason adds that the Rubber Bowl would also be attractive to major acts since it sits so close to Akron-Fulton Airport, and because it has a capacity of more than 35,000 -- about the same as Progressive Field and second only to FirstEnergy Stadium among Northeast Ohio venues.

Akron City Council is discussing the future of the Rubber Bowl, and city officials have been recommending it be torn town. The structure is not secured and has increasingly been vandalized.

What Mason wants is a partnership, in which Akron takes the Rubber Bowl’s deed and then leases the property back to him for music festivals. 

“We’re just asking for a partnership, and we can’t get that. We need to have that partnership so it alleviates the zoning issues. The property is actually zoned residential, which actually makes no sense, but it just kind of slid by because it was the university that owned it.”

Akron has expressed concern that it would be left with a crumbling structure it doesn't want.

Mason adds that the city owns the land around the Rubber Bowl, so the partnership would also include provisions for parking space.

The Rubber Bowl once hosted concerts by acts such as the Rolling Stones, Van Halen and The Grateful Dead, and was the place where Simon & Garfunkel kicked off their first reunion tour in 1983.