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Fort Wayne Moves Forward with Downtown Arena

Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne

A committee changed with mapping the future of a new downtown Fort Wayne arena is recommending the city move forward with what could be a $65 million, 4,500-seat facility.

The new arena, which would be located near Great Wayne Center and Parkview Field, is envisioned as a mid-level concert and event venue, handling events too large for the Grand Wayne Center and too small for the Memorial Coliseum. (The ECHL’s Fort Wayne Komets would continue to fill the Coliseum; the NBA D-League’s Mad Ants may be better off at the smaller downtown arena.) One big issue is how to create a downtown arena that wouldn’t complete with Memorial Coliseum (shown above), the Embassy Theatre (capacity 2,471) and the Grand Wayne for business. That’s not necessarily a narrow niche: there are plenty of musical touring acts these days too large and perhaps too rowdy for the elegant Embassy Theatre and too small for the Coliseum. From the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette:

[Chuck Surack, Sweetwater Sound CEO and arena committee chairman] said the committee consulted arena and facility operators from around the country and entertainment promoters, as well as city and county government officials, residents and representatives from existing local venues.

“Overall, with some reasonable conditions and expectations, the conditions were very positive and supportive, and we were encouraged to move forward with this idea,” Surack said.

The new arena could house high school and college-level sports, musical entertainment and more, Surack said. There are no plans to add ice to the arena, he said.

“There’s still some events that happen at the Coliseum that we might be able to have at the arena and then free the Coliseum up for some other things that are more appropriately sized out there,” Surack said. “I’d love, personally, to see the Mad Ants go downtown, I think that would fit for most of their games.”

Buying into the concept is one thing; coming up with a financial plan is another, and the committee will tackle that issue next. An agreement with an established arena operator, who would front part of the cost as part of a management contract, could be discussed; a hike in the local hotel tax could be another.

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