Metroplex once again is open for business

By VIRGINIA SHANK

Tribune Chronicle

LIBERTY – More than two years after it closed, the Metroplex is again “open for business,” the new owner said.

Ron Anderson, president of Universal Development LLC, told a group of elected officials and community leaders gathered at a Wednesday afternoon ribbon cutting that the building he purchased last year is ready to be occupied. Events at the new Metroplex Expo Center are already scheduled, he added.

“There’s a lot of history here,” Anderson said. “It’s a lot like it was, but a lot of it is new. There was a lot of disrepair, it’s been a long struggle the last six to eight months, but we’ve gotten through it, and that work has gotten us to the end of step one where we can now occupy it.”

The Belmont Avenue property has had several owners and lived multiple lives as a hotel, conference center, restaurant and comedy club.

In 2008, it sold for $2.7 million. Universal bought it for $850,000.

The 100,000-square-foot property that sits on 11 acres was last operating as Rodeway Inn when it closed in early March 2014 after two back-to-back fires resulted in an estimated $105,000 in damage.

Then-owner Indira Periyasamy tried to sell the property in November 2013 and again in May 2014, but each time the minimum asking price was not met.

Melissa Hegwood, Anderson’s daughter and Universal’s vice president of marketing, said she did not immediately see her father’s vision when the two first went through the facility nearly two years ago.

“It was around the holidays in 2014 and it had been closed up for some time at that point,” she said. “As we were touring the building, he was closing windows so birds didn’t get in and wiping up the floor so water didn’t ruin it … and I thought we don’t even own this building and he already has an interest in protecting it. He hated to see such a beautiful asset go to waste. He had a vision I didn’t see that day. It’s beautiful to see it get to this point.”

Renovation has included installation of new lighting, new roofing and black top.

The expo center area features a new ballroom and meeting rooms. In addition to purchasing the entertainment side of the property, Universal also acquired the attached hotel complex, which is being converted to a new self-storage center that will feature 450 units of various sizes that will be climate controlled with interior access, similar to the company’s other climate controlled property at Interstate 80 and state Route 46 in Austintown. The storage center is part of the second phase and is scheduled to open next year.

Hegwood said Universal saw a need to have a permanent place for events such as conventions, business gatherings, wedding receptions, banquets, concerts and trade shows.

The renovation is taking place in several phases.

“In an independent marketing study, we saw that this area was underserved with the closing of the Eastwood Expo Center and in need of additional climate-controlled storage. We felt that the former Metroplex was the perfect solution,” Hegwood said.

The Metroplex opened in 1987 under the Holiday Inn banner.

vshank@tribtoday.com