The commission director wants to create a tri-state boxing group.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Ohio Athletic Commission is coming home.
The commission operated out of an office in the Union Square plaza in Youngstown from about the late 1970s until 2002, before moving to a building in Warrensville Heights, a Cleveland suburb.
Bernie Profato, the commission's executive director and a retired Niles police officer, said the current location is essentially in the middle of nowhere, and should be in a location near other state agencies.
Worked out deal
The Ohio Department of Administrative Services worked out a deal with the Youngstown Central Area Community Improvement Corp. to lease space for the commission at the George V. Voinovich Government Center on West Federal Street. Several other state agencies are located at the center.
The DAS provides services, including leasing office space, for several state agencies. The CIC operates the Voinovich building.
The athletic commission will occupy the CIC's 1,100-square-foot conference room. The CIC will retain its attached 1,000-square-foot office on the fourth floor.
The commission will pay $13,827 in rent during its first year at the center, and is expected to move by July 1, said Jason Whitehead, CIC executive director.
The CIC would hold its committee and full-member meetings at another location in downtown once the commission moves in, Whitehead said. The meeting location hasn't been determined, he said.
The CIC executive committee on Thursday approved a proposal to spend up to $2,500 to hire an architectural firm to draw plans to reconfigure the conference room for the athletic commission's headquarters.
The CIC has talked for months about leaving the center because state agencies in the building need more space.
At the beginning of the year, the CIC was going to move to 20 Federal Place, the former Phar-Mor Centre, to allow the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles to use its office space. That was canceled when the Ohio Lottery Commission agreed to give up some warehouse space to the BMV.
Profato heads group
Profato is thrilled that the commission is returning to its Youngstown roots. The commission employs 3 people.
"This is the best news I've heard in a while," Profato said when told by a reporter that the commission was moving to the Voinovich Center. "Youngstown will get back something it lost. The commission's roots are in Youngstown, and now it's coming back home."
Profato retired from the Niles Police Department four years ago after working there for 32 years. Earlier this year, he retired as a boxing referee after 18 years, and as a high school basketball official after 33 years. Profato was hired about six months ago as the state athletic commission's executive director.
The commission regulates professional boxing, wrestling, karate, mixed martial arts, and other striking sports, Profato said.
The agency also licenses officials, promoters and participants in those professions, with the exception of wrestling, he said.
Profato said he and the athletic commission heads of Pennsylvania and West Virginia are working on a plan to form a tri-state boxing organization.
While mixed martial arts events are growing in popularity in Ohio -- a recent one in Cleveland attracted nearly 6,000 fans -- boxing in the state is on the decline, Profato said.
Could help sport
The establishment of a tri-state boxing organization could change that, he said. The states would sanction fights for titles in various weight classes, Profato said.
"It would increase the amount of interest among fighters in the three states to fight here because they'd have a goal to reach," he said. "They could use our championships as a stepping stone toward a world championship."
Profato said he's been in contact with boxing promoters interested in scheduling fights in the Mahoning Valley. The promoters want to hold smaller events at sites such as the W.D. Packard Music Hall in Warren, and hold larger fights at the Youngstown convocation center, once it's built, he said.