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Opinion

Mason excited about rebirth of Rubber Bowl

2/21/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

On the Mark — By Craig Marks

Sean Mason first laid eyes on the Rubber Bowl as a coach for the Cadiz High School football team, which had made it to the postseason.

“Back then, I remember it having a blue field,” said Mason. “It was the big stage for us. I grew up in a small town — Cadiz, Ohio — so being in the playoffs and being in the Rubber Bowl was pretty exciting for all of us, even the coaches.”

If Mason’s dream becomes reality, more coaches and players will have the opportunity to step on the turf of the currently named Rubber Bowl. (More on that in a bit.) Mason, president of Canton-based Team1 Marketing Group, is part of the ownership team that purchased the dormant 73-year-old stadium from The University of Akron for $38,000.

Mason has already heard from interested parties.

“We’ve had a lot of groups reach out to us,” he said. “We’re looking to having some high school football in there, and there will be some semi-pro teams that will play there, too. There are going to be some concerts and other types of sporting events, so we’re confident that it will be a venue with a lot of activity.”

The stadium’s primary resident will be a team in the revamped U.S. Football League (USFL), provided the league accepts Mason’s franchise application.

“Everything indicates there are no issues,” said Mason. “We have been in talks for a long time. While other teams have dropped off, we’re one of the ones that are still there.”

If there is a USFL team, it will be called the Akron Fire. Last August, Mason was looking at other names, but like a novelty birthday candle, the Fire would not be extinguished.

“We did a little poll, and we had people throw out some names at us,” said Mason. “But a lot of people said the Akron Fire grew on them.”

While the team’s name is nailed down, the name of the stadium is up in the air. Mason said his group does not have rights to the name “Rubber Bowl” and is looking for naming-rights partners for both the field and the stadium.

“We are hoping that we can get some company in Akron to step up and partner with us,” he said. “We are talking with some out-of-state companies, but we hope it will be a local company to step up.”

Mason said the Fire will hold tryouts in late August or early September, after the NFL teams’ final roster cuts. The 14-game USFL season is to begin in spring 2014.

The idea is for the USFL to be a developmental league for the NFL. If so, the players will need to be of sturdy stock to endure a full USFL season, then catch their breath and join an NFL training camp.

Mason said there would be some physical toll on the players, “but it would also give them an advantage of coming in and being able to truly make the team, because they are in football shape and will be football ready.”

First up, though, is making the Rubber Bowl football ready.

“We’re hoping for four or five months of renovation, and we’re probably going to extend that to seven or eight months, with some of the recent changes we made to the design,” said Mason.

Among the renovations to the stadium: a new scoreboard, new seats and — one can expect — a new sign proclaiming the stadium’s corporate sponsor. (The Rubbermaid Bowl? The GOJO Bowl? The Swensons Galley Bowl?)

Many of the other USFL stadiums may not be of the same vintage, if all goes according to plan. On Feb. 11, the league announced an agreement with a real estate development company to build mid-sized stadiums in five cities. The press release also noted “the USFL has made significant strides toward bringing a team to Ohio.”

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