2 Years in the Making, Metroplex Reopens

GIRARD, Ohio – The Metroplex Expo Center, the vision of building owner Ronald R. Anderson, became reality Wednesday with the ceremonial reopening of what was once the Mahoning Valley’s No. 1 hospitality venue.

“He had an interest in protecting the building and didn’t want to see the beautiful asset go to waste,” Melissa Hegwood said of her father.

After a year and a half of planning and renovating the Metroplex in Liberty Township, Anderson and Hegwood cut a blue ribbon in the north lobby of the center, just outside the Stardust Ballroom.

Anderson is the president of Universal Development, a developer of residential real estate in northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania; Hegwood is vice president of marketing.

The Metroplex, 1620 Motor Inn Drive, opened in 1987 under the Holiday Inn banner. It quickly grew in popularity as a site for meetings and small conventions. The hotel closed in March 2014 following a pair of minor fires.

Anderson bought the 11 acres where the Metroplex sits for $850,00 in March 2015.

When she and her father first entered the center, which had sat vacant a year, it was “eerie” and “dark,” she recalled.

Her father started to clean up the building even before they took title by shutting open windows so that birds couldn’t get in, Hegwood said, and placed buckets where the roof leaked to save the floors.

Anderson has owned property across the street from the Metroplex for 35 years. He saw the potential of the location and his vision started to form as he watched the building go into disrepair.

“It’s in the No. 1 location with Interstate 80 being close by,” he said. “There’s 60,000 or 70,000 cars passing by every day. And it’s easy to get to.”

The 100,000-square-foot building has had numerous improvements. Among them are 14 new HVAC units atop the roof, LED lighting, a repaved parking lot, new signage, landscaping and an outdoor patio, and renovations to the ballroom and meeting rooms.

The funds needed to pay for the improvements have not been calculated, Hegwood said, because construction is ongoing. “It takes a lot of money to retain a big asset,” was all she said.

The 25,000 square feet of indoor space can hold the events Anderson envisioned — conventions, business gatherings, wedding receptions, banquets, concerts and trade shows.

Hegwood hopes to bring more traffic to the site, which would benefit nearby hotels and restaurants as well. “This should have a great economic impact for them, as well as the surrounding retail market,” she said.

The Metroplex can accommodate up to 4,000 people and has begun booking events for this year and into 2017.

The restaurant and lounge are open to lease.

“This is just stage one of his vision,” Hegwood said of Anderson.

Stage two consists of converting the four-story hotel into 450 self-storage units, scheduled to open in 2017.

The units, to vary in size, will be climate controlled, have interior access, a high-tech sprinkler system and 24-hour security with camera monitors, and a device on each door that let the monitors “know” whether a unit is locked or unlocked. An exterior freight elevator to transport cargo to the four floors will be built.

Phase three of Anderson’s plan is to run a public street through the property. “It will give Motor Inn Drive a northbound connection to Belmont Avenue,” he said, “which is what they’ve been missing for 35 years.”

The Metroplex has “a handful of employees,” Hegwood said. Five construction workers have been working on the center full-time, some of whom will be retained for staffing. The complex has hired an event coordinator, she said, and plans to expand the staff.

Pictured: Cutting the ribbon are Melissa Anderson-Hedwood, Ronald Anderson, Bri Simeone and Dan Wilson.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.