Special Report: The Ballpark Payoff
May 13, 2016
Special Report: The Ballpark Payoff
FORT WAYNE, Ind.
Since opening its gates eight years ago at Ewing and Jefferson Boulevard, Parkview Field has made a name for itself across the Midwest. On top of that, city representatives say the ballpark and surrounding Harrison Square project has brought renewed life to downtown Fort Wayne.
The idea of building the baseball stadium downtown was met with resistance at first. Safety was a big concern, some questioned why the city needed a baseball stadium downtown when we already had one by the Memorial Coliseum and many people asked "would this kind of investment even pay off?"
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry says the selling point, for the public especially, was that it would be so much more than just a ballpark. The ballpark would simply be the centerpiece of the Harrison Square project, which included a public parking garage, a Marriott Hotel as well as living, business and retail space.
Cue the cliche: If you build it, they will come. And they have. Since the facility opened, almost 3 million baseball fans have taken in a TinCaps game. But the facility is booked up throughout the year for so much more than baseball.
"Concerts, the Fort Wayne downtown rotary meets here 50 times a year, weddings, wedding receptions, all kinds of stuff. It really is in use a lot," said TinCaps President Mike Nutter. "I don't think I even understood how much stuff we'd be able to do and i was one of the ones telling people how much stuff we would do," he said laughing.
In fact, from April of 2009 to October of 2015 Parkview Field hosted almost 3,500 events bringing more than 3.5 million people into the city - people with money to spend.
But downtown wasn't always a thriving district. Before the big Harrison Square endeavor, Mayor Henry says the downtown area was quiet, dormant and lacked the retail, dining and other amenities that make for a bustling urban city core. Today, though, the Harrison is home to a Domino's Pizza, Wine Down, O'Reilly's Pub, and apartments that overlook the baseball field. The Marriott Hotel is a short walk down the block, and it's a place where lots of visitors stay when conventions come to the Grand Wayne Center across the street.
The mayor says the Harrison Square project brought an exciting atmosphere back to downtown and the positive vibes continue to spread. Riverfront development plans are moving forward and more business, retail, and living options are coming to The Landing on Columbia Street. And right next to the ballpark, Cityscape Flats is quickly rising.
Mayor Henry says Harrison Square is one of the driving forces behind these new developments.
"And I would go as far as to say that the new Ash building maybe would not have been built if the excitement and the momentum in our community hadn't come out of the development of the Harrison. But more investments coming, all of that, I think, is a result of Parkview Field as well as the entire Harrison project," said Mayor Henry.
It's good to note, too, that right before the Harrison Square project was started, the city renovated the downtown library and expanded the Grand Wayne Center. The mayor says because those projects happened so close together and were so successful, the public realized the potential of downtown and got behind the Harrison Square project.
Indiana is conducting a big study about what venues attract the most people from out of state. Parkview Field, along with the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo, the Genealogy Center and Science Central have been submitted for our area.