FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The Fort Wayne Mad Ants and Derby Girls both use the Memorial Coliseum for their events now and they’d both be open to looking at moving to a new arena if one were to be built downtown.
The study looking at the feasibility of a downtown arena concluded the Mad Ants and Derby Girls are “not satisfied with their current situation, and would be interested in moving to a smaller, more intimate facility in downtown Fort Wayne.”
“It’s definitely something to consider with open arms. We’re all really excited about it and it might be a good move for us,” Kelly Benton, a Fort Wayne Derby Girl team and board member, said.
The Derby Girls’ four or five home bouts are in the Coliseum’s expo hall every spring. Benton said around 1,200 people come to each one. Benton said they like working with the Coliseum, but if a new arena can match or beat the Coliseum’s price, they’d think about moving.
“We are a non-profit, so if we could cut costs of what it costs to put a bout on, that’s more money we can give to charity,” Benton said.
She added that the Derby Girls also really like the idea of the new arena being downtown. The study suggested putting it on Jefferson Boulevard across from Parkview Field.
“Giving people something to do other than driving to a destination and parking their car and then getting back in their car and going home. We want to make it an experience,” Benton said.
Mad Ants president Jeff Potter agreed that an arena downtown would be good for the city.
“I come from Seattle where I’ve seen the benefit a community gets when it gets new buildings. It creates excitement and new business,” Potter said. “Parkview Field is the jewel of the city. I think it’s more than proven the case of how great things can be downtown in the summer and if you were able to do a facility then you’ve got that year-round promotion of people going down.”
Around 3,000 fans come to every Mad Ants game. The study said that crowd feels small in the Coliseum, even with blocking off some of the arena’s 13,000 seats. But, that same turnout would feel packed in the proposed stadium with seating for around 5,500.
“The teams who are playing in smaller venues are able to do more for their fans and provide a better experience,” Potter said. “That said, I think we’ve done a great job in the Coliseum. But, my experience as a player, when I was in a smaller gym and it’s … loud as can be and close together, there’s an energy that’s hard to replicate in a bigger facility.”
Potter added that the Coliseum’s busy calendar also makes it hard sometimes to schedule games. A new arena, could make that easier. The study also suggested making the new arena more TV-friendly, which would attract more high-profile events that have to be televised.
“[A new arena would provide] those prime nights to offer the NBA and ESPN to come broadcast from Fort Wayne. I think it is great for us, but it’s better for the community. It’s more people seeing Fort Wayne and that type of exposure is fantastic,” he said.
He’d also like to be able to bring in other NBA events, like the D-League Showcase, in which every team in the D-League goes to one city to play a tournament and round robin games.
“It would be a great thing we could offer to the city of Fort Wayne, the restaurants and hotels and it’s great exposure,” he said.
The NBA likes to choose cities where other activities are within walking distance.
“The lay of the city with the Coliseum doesn’t quite fit and with the availability of the arena, I haven’t been able to propose it to the NBA at this point,” Potter said.