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Downtown Fort Wayne Arena Receives Committee Support

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Zach Bernard/WBOI News
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In his State of the City Address last February, Mayor Tom Henry spoke about the possibility of creating a new downtown arena. On Monday, a big step was taken to make that vision a reality.

The Downtown Arena Committee, which consists of 19 community leaders, unanimously recommended Fort Wayne move forward on the plan in a news conference on Monday.

For now, the arena is being called “the Center," and the committee suggests building it across from Parkview Field and next to the Grand Wayne Center to centralize the city’s entertainment and sports.

The estimated price tag is around $65 million, and the the committee recommends not using property taxes for funding. Mayor Henry says one funding alternative could come from the City’s $40 million Legacy Fund nest egg.

“That’s the reason that fund was established: to create a legacy for our city, and this arena could very well be part of that legacy,” said Henry.

A second option would be a one-cent food and beverage tax, which would have to be approved by the Indiana State Legislature. Indianapolis achieved such a measure with Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Lucas Oil Stadium. Henry says private sector investment could be a possibility, but no firms are officially signed on to the project at this time.

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Proposed map of "The Center's" location.

Chuck Surack of Sweetwater Sound is the chairman of the Downtown Arena Committee and says the goal isn’t to compete with the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, which has 13,000-seats.

“There’s a lot of acts that don’t come to Fort Wayne because they want to play an arena-style facility," Surack said. "And the Coliseum, as great as it is, is not an arena. And the Embassy is phenomenal, but it’s not an arena. So being able to have 3,500, 4,000, 4,500 seats is amazing.”

Surack says the Fort Wayne Mad Ants could move to the arena once it is built. The committee recommends against the addition of ice, meaning the Komets would continue to play home games at the Coliseum.

Mayor Henry says while the announcement of the committee’s recommendations is a huge step in the right direction, the city remains a long way away from having the Center up and running just yet.

“You’re talking property acquisition, you’re talking demolition, you’re talking the building itself; how big is it going to be? What’s the design going to be?" Henry said. "We have the study and I’ll sit down with my staff and take a look at what’s going to be needed, and we’ll be interviewing.”

Next steps for the Center include a meeting with the Allen County Commissioners and selecting a firm for the design. Once completed, the City hopes to have a more detailed timeline for the Center’s future.

Zach joined 89.1 WBOI as a reporter and local host for All Things Considered. He currently hosts Morning Edition.
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