Metroplex Expo Center makes comeback as convention center, storage facility


By Sarah Lehr

slehr@vindy.com

LIBERTY

When Ron Anderson, president of Universal Development, first toured the former Metroplex facility with his daughter, Melissa Hegwood, vice president of the development company, he had to set out a bucket to catch water from the leaky ceiling.

“It was totally creepy and dark,” Hegwood said of the building, adding that she only agreed to tour the abandoned building at Anderson’s insistence. “It was this cold and rainy day. I couldn’t see what he saw.”

The former hotel, banquet hall and convention center, located at 1620 Motor Inn Drive off Belmont Avenue, had been vacant since 2014.

Universal Development formally reopened the facility Wednesday with a ribbon-cutting attended by Liberty Township and Trumbull County officials.

A portion of the Metroplex Expo Center will now serve as a convention center, intended for events including weddings, concerts, corporate meetings and trade shows.

The remainder of the facility, which was formerly a hotel, will open in 2017 as a climate-controlled storage facility with 450 units of varying sizes.

Universal Development decided to pursue a storage facility rather than a hotel after commissioning a feasibility study.

“I think the motel business is overdone,” Anderson said. “The product we’re trying to sell is updated and fulfills a need in the area.”

Hegwood acknowledged that previous developers have struggled to maintain the facility. Universal Development, she said, has reduced overhead costs by working with local businesses in lieu of hiring its own full-time banquet and security staff.

“We’re trying to run it a little bit more lean,” Hegwood said. “We’re looking at a more affordable rather than high-end market. It could be accessible to a nonprofit, for example.”

Universal’s Development’s renovations to the facility include a new outdoor patio, 14 new rooftop HVAC units, an upgraded ballroom, new signage, LED lighting, a repaved parking lot and landscaping. The company is also building a new road on the property, providing direct access from Motor Inn Drive to Belmont Avenue.

Kutlick Realty LLC of Boardman completed the sale of the former hotel, restaurant and convention center for $850,000 to BLI of MetroPlex LTD, a Universal Development company, in 2015.

The Metroplex Expo Center is now taking reservations for 2016 and 2017.

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