Downtown arena: source of funding sticky issue for decision makers

February 3rd, 2016

News Coverage:

February 1, 2016

Downtown arena: source of funding sticky issue for decision makers

Jeff Neumeyer

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21ALIVE) --- Getting closer to hearing a "thumbs up" or thumbs down" on the idea of building a new arena in downtown Fort Wayne.

A study committee has been working for months on the feasibility of the project.

Plans suggest if the project happens it’ll be constructed on land immediately west of the Grand Wayne Center.

Sweetwater Sound CEO Chuck Surack, the chairman of the arena study committee, says he envisioned the committee being done with its review months ago, but that complexities involved caused things to drag out.

Surack would not confirm it, but a member of the committee told 21Alive that at a meeting scheduled for February 8th, he anticipates the committee generating a final report and settling on a recommendation one way or the other that would be turned over to Mayor Tom Henry.

The 4,500 to 6,000 seat facility is estimated to cost around $63-million.

New Republican 4th District city council member Jason Arp says people in Aboite Township tell him city taxpayers should not be stuck with the bill.

"90 percent of the people were against the idea of a taxpayer funded arena downtown. Now, I think know, private interests could do it without taxpayer funding, I think people would be happy with that," Arp said.

"What we do know is that those kinds of venues can certainly help to keep our base strong in the downtown area, and also I think keep folks interested in staying in Fort Wayne because there is more for them to do," said Democratic 5th District council member Geoff Paddock, who generally supports the notion of a new downtown arena, provided a mix of public and private dollars is identified to pay for it.

Again, the estimated price tag is under $65-million, but those familiar with the project tell 21Alive that the cost could run higher than that.

This project comes at a time when city dollars and Legacy funds will be in demand for a host of important projects, including riverfront development, so Jason Arp and others say they want to make sure that taxpayers don't get hit from a lot of different angles all at the same time.