Committee Backs Downtown Arena Proposal

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(photo courtesy of Greater Fort Wayne Inc.) (photo courtesy of Greater Fort Wayne Inc.)
FORT WAYNE -

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry is set to move forward with the design process and lining up possible funding sources and developers for a proposed multipurpose arena. A committee tasked with studying viability unanimously recommended the project in the city's growing downtown. The group included representatives from Fort Wayne's existing large entertainment venues: the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Parkview Field and the Embassy Theatre. Previous estimates pegged a 5,000-seat area as high as $63 million.

Others providing input include public and private-sector leaders from throughout the region.

The city says studies have shown a new venue wouldn't have a significant impact on the current entertainment spaces in the city. Henry says consultants have also suggested the city or county could make back six or seven times what it would invest in the project.

Henry says a new arena, coupled with tens of millions of dollars of development and redevelopment would help to continue to shape the downtown as more of a "point of destination." He says all the investment serves as a boost to talent attraction and retention efforts, particularly in the race for the Millennial generation. "Millennials who have graduated from our postsecondary facilities here in town: the more we have to offer them, the higher the probability that they are going to stay." Henry believes more businesses will want to locate to a city that is growing.

Henry says efforts to make downtown more appealing are already bearing fruit. "We've had more restaurants coming into downtown. There's talk of at least one, if not two more hotels coming into downtown. We're completely out of condominium space." Henry adds "our apartments are filling up faster than we can build them."

The committee, led by Sweetwater founder Chuck Surack, considered factors including finance, governance, facilities and programming for a proposed new venue. He says the committee was "committed to performing the necessary due diligence to conclude that a downtown arena would be a tremendous asset for Fort Wayne."

Specifically, the committee suggests the area just west of the Grand Wayne Center and across from Parkview Field as the preferred location for an arena, which would be a convention center connector. It also recommends an architectural and engineering firm be tapped to develop schematics.

Henry says he will now move toward the next phases of implementation, which include discussion with Allen County Commissioners. Further down the road, he will then engage stakeholders in work involving land acquisition, financial resources, architectural work, a structure of leadership and oversight and the start of a detailed timeline.

Henry tells Inside INdiana Business the plan fits with the goal of making downtown more of a "point of destination" for locals and out-of-towners alike.
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