Friday, October 3, 2014

Thinking downtown

Forty large for a feasibility study.

Obviously, the price of coffee, donuts, legal pads and (if the study group goes late enough) a couple of  sixers has gone up a tad over the years.

This is what I'm thinking as the idea for a downtown arena gets floated again, because, well, it's just something that has to happen in the Fort every couple decades or so. And so I get why the city wants to spend $40,000 for yet another feasibility study.

Their reason sits right across the street from the Grand Wayne Center.

Parkview Field is living proof that if you build it downtown, people will come, no matter how loudly  the naysayers say nay. No one was gonna come downtown to watch baseball, remember? And yet they did and continue to do so in the kind of numbers that now makes a feasibility study on a downtown arena feasible, even if -- as with Parkview Field -- a lot of us are wondering just how they'd fill it.

But six years down the road, the 'View is drawing not just baseball fans but concerts and Fort4Fitness and actual people past the traditional downtown witching hour of 6 p.m. And downtown has been, if not transformed, at least set on the path toward transformation.

And so, sure. Why not look into a 5,000-seat downtown arena?

You can be skeptical, and should be, because it's hard to fathom right now how you'd fill the place. Given the volume of entertainment traffic that runs through the Coliseum, Foellinger Theater and (right down the street from the 'View)  the Embassy, is there really a crying need for another venue? What acts are you going to attract that aren't already filling half a dozen other venues?

And as for sports ... well, maybe you could steal away some of the basketball tournaments Spiece is hosting right now, or entice IPFW, Tech or Saint Francis to play an occasional game downtown. But those are intermittent gigs at best; IPFW isn't likely to move back off campus after putting all that coin into its own athletic facilities, and it's highly unlikely the NBA's going to sign off on the Mad Ants moving from a 10,000-seat facility to one half that size, even if the Ants never come close to filling the Coliseum.

The most likely benefit of another arena downtown, at least that I see at the moment, is the possibility  the IHSAA might actually let Fort Wayne host a basketball sectional, regional or semistate again. That would eliminate the absurdity of farming everyone out to the sticks even for sectionals, and it might actually give the tournament a decent stage again for the first time since the death of Hoosier Hysteria 17 years ago.

Other than that ... I can't see another 5,000-seat venue as anything but an extravagance. But a lot of us couldn't see the 'View as anything but that either -- and no one but get-off-my-lawn cranks pining for the days of Harold Zeis thinks that now.

So study away. What's the harm?

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