AKRON - A $10-12 million renovation project at the Rubber Bowl IS scheduled to begin today. The project is expected to take approximately eight months to complete.
When finished, the new facility, which used to host University of Akron football, could be home to the Akron Fire of the USFL.
"We haven't been approved by the league yet," said Fire co-owner Sean Mason, a 1989 graduate of Cadiz High School and a Belmont Tech alum, in a recent telephone call. "The contract needs signed. Our attorneys are going back-and-forth on a couple of things.
"Everything indicates no major issues," Mason offered. "We have been in talks for a long time."
The stadium has been dormant since 2008 when the Zips moved into InfoCision Stadium - Summa Field.
"That's our No. 1 focus right now, to get the stadium remodeled," Mason added, noting that if the project is completed on time, it would be just in time for the opening of the 2014 season in March. "It's pretty well trashed."
Mason and co-owner Bill Dunn, who are business partners in Canton-based Team1 Marketing Entertainment, purchased the 73-year-old structure for a cool $38,000 from the University.
"We're in the design stages right now," he continued. "There was so much cleanup to do. The things that are wrong with the building are mostly cosmetic."
Mason said a new press box area with minor changes will be on the list of things to-do. Others include the seating which will go from the old wooden bleachers to aluminum bleachers. They also plan to install more chair-back seats, and possibly suites.
"If someone is going to pay to put their name on the field, or somewhere else, then you want to be able to provide more than just a bleacher seat," Mason said.
Other upgrades will be removing the oddly placed lights that restricted view for so many years. The scoreboard and public address system will also be replaced. The concession areas will also be re-done.
Mason recalled the first time he walked into the Rubber Bowl.
"I was a coach at Cadiz and we made the playoffs," he remembered back. "I remember it having a blue field back then."
The return of the USFL was delayed from this spring until next March and will include a scaled-down, 8-team version of the developmental league, which ran from 1983-87.
Plans are for teams to play a 14-game schedule which would culminate in a championship game in July.
When, and if, the Fire take the field, Mason and Dunn have already hired a head coach - Carl Crennel Jr. He is the nephew of former Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel.
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org