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  • Renderings courtesy SinkCombsDethlefs Renderings show the exterior of the arena as seen from Parkview Field Plaza and the interior as set up for basketball.

  • Courtesy: SINKCOMBSDETHLEFS, Architecture design Interior perspective - basketball.  

Friday, February 17, 2017 10:12 pm

$105 million price tag for arena

Rosa Salter Rodriguez | The Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne’s proposed downtown arena will cost nearly $105 million – about 40 percent more than earlier estimates. And that’s without an ice rink.

With a price tag of $104.9 million, not including land, the arena – now officially called an event center – would lie along the north side of West Jefferson Boulevard just west of Grand Wayne Center, connecting to the convention center with a pedestrian bridge above Webster Street.

The arena would house a basketball court with seating for 5,746 fans and, with a 2,400-square-foot stage, could house concerts needing up to 5,986 seats.

Architects described the building as a multiuse facility, meaning it could also host trade shows, banquets and indoor sports and tournaments like arena football, indoor soccer, lacrosse, volleyball, boxing and mixed martial arts.

However, there’s no ice rink planned, precluding a move downtown by the Fort Wayne Komets.

"The working assumption has been the Mad Ants will be the primary tenants," said architect Donald R. Dethlefs, CEO of SinkCombsDethlefs of Denver, who presented the design during a meeting of the Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board.

No deal has been reached with the Mad Ants, the NBA Developmental League team owned by the Indiana Pacers of the National Basketball Association, said Steve Brody, CIB member and on the committee working on the facility proposal. But talks with the team have been conducted to learn its needs in developing the building’s design, he said.

With a cost nearly $40 million higher than a previous estimate of about $65 million, the arena was described as an open-concept building that would give visitors lines of sight into the main space from various spots inside, including from a glass-lined lobby nearly two-stories high.

Most patrons are expected to enter the lobby from a plaza on the west side of Webster Street. Underground parking, with indoor connections to the building, will be entered and exited using Ewing Street.

On the ground level, some seats would be retractable, allowing various configurations of the floor space. The second level, containing most of the seating, would have a concourse going around the building’s perimeter – a feature deliberately modeled on the concourse at Parkview Field across West Jefferson Boule­vard from the arena, Dethlefs said.

Twenty private suites – 10 on each side – would line the north and south sides of the arena’s third floor. An additional suite on each side would be twice the size of the others. Throughout the building, 36 seats are designed for those using wheelchairs, plus 36 more for their companions.

The ground floor also could be divided into four basketball courts and multiple volleyball courts and could house 140 10-by-14-foot booths for trade shows. If used for banquets, the ground level could seat 900 people but would not have movable walls.

Lobby and concourse space also could be used for trade shows and conferences, allowing Grand Wayne Center to attract larger groups or more than one group at a time, Dethlefs said.

On the exterior, large windows will "activate the building, so you’ll see it glowing at night," he said.

With the building’s plaza lining up with the Allen County Public Library’s plaza to its north, Webster Street could be closed for street fairs or indoor-outdoor or co-hosted events, Dethlefs said.

The arena building would include a team store and office space for the Mad Ants. The land’s southwest corner is being left open so it could be developed into a one- or two-story restaurant/bar. Its cost is not included in the current price, and no operator has been identified, Deth­lefs said.

Although city and county officials had requested reports on the board’s ability to meet financial and legal responsibilities in going forward, those documents were not ready for Thursday’s meeting, Brody said.

However, a breakdown of costs was presented.

It pegged construction expenses at $79 million, including $8.2 million for the approximately 200-space parking garage, $3.1 million for site improvement, $1.4 million for the ramp connector to Grand Wayne and $66.5 for the building itself.

Soft costs, including furnishing, fixtures and equipment, were placed at $19.8 million. Also included was $5.9 million to cover construction cost increases – about double what is usually cited to err on the conservative side, Dethlefs said.

Land could add several million to the cost. The land is now occupied by three restaurants – King Gyros, Taco Bell and Rally’s.

Dethlefs added the decision not to have ice was made early in the design process. That feature would have added at least $3 million to the cost, he said.

It also would have added operational costs for maintenance and the need to keep the building at a high humidity level, Dethlefs said.

Various configurations for an overhead scoreboard were considered, he added, but it was unclear Thursday whether that cost was included.

Dethlefs said his company has designed midsize arenas in several cities, including Cedar Park and Allen, Texas; Bangor, Maine; Independence, Missouri; and Allentown, Pennsylvania.

This one, he said, is planned "to hit a sweet spot" between the Coliseum, with more than 12,000 seats, and Embassy Theatre, with just under 2,700 seats. He mentioned concerts by country and Christian groups as well as oldies acts and up-and-coming pop and indie bands as target markets.

Dethlefs, whose local partners include Cory Miller of the Fort Wayne architectural firm Elevatus, expects tweaks to the design. But he said the venue should provide an outstanding experience to patrons.

It’s "a downtown center building that is really friendly to its neighbors," he said. "For this scale of building, it’s really giving an intimate experience."