Consultants hired to study the feasibility of building a downtown arena or event center need more time to prepare a final report, we learned last week. That's not a problem. There's no great clamor for the project, and the public needs to know as much about it as possible before any decision is made.
Fortunately, that's the stance the Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board is taking. Board member Steve Brody told The Journal Gazette's Rosa Salter Rodriguez it will likely be early November before the study is available.
“We really need to get this report right,” Brody said.
Indeed. The cost, originally estimated at $48 million to $63 million, has grown to $105 million, not including land. Proponents are continuing to focus on land west of the Grand Wayne Center and north of Parkview Field.
Representatives of Victus Advisers, a Park City, Utah, consulting firm, visited Fort Wayne earlier this year to determine whether there is demand for the event center and how it might affect other community venues, including Memorial Coliseum and the Embassy Theatre. The firm's final report is expected to detail the construction cost, as well as operations and maintenance over time. The $49,000 report, covered by CIB funds, follows the recommendation of a panel urging city and county officials to pursue the project.
Mayor Tom Henry has been the most enthusiastic supporter.
“My job is to be a visionary,” he told our editorial board last month. “My job is to try to move this city forward as much as I possibly can within the limits of my term. If I don't do it – shame on me. That's not why you put me in office. But I'm also a realist. If this arena or event center (report) ultimately comes back and says we can't do it – again, I'll accept it. I'll choke, but I'll accept it and I'll put it back on the shelf for the next mayor, whoever he or she is.”
While discussion of a downtown arena has been a recurring topic, the proposal has never gained enough steam to advance. Cautionary tales from other cities have been one reason; progress on other local projects, including the roof-raising at Memorial Coliseum and Turnstone's state-of-the-art Plassman Athletic Center, is another. And while an arena was once the proposed centerpiece of downtown revitalization, it's now just one of several ambitious projects on the drawing board or well under way.
While his continuing drive to take Fort Wayne to the next level is welcome, the mayor can be satisfied with prospects for riverfront development, the Electric Works project at the former General Electric campus, the Headwaters Junction proposal and much more.
The extra time allowed to thoroughly vet the event center proposal means the Capital Improvement Board, the mayor, Allen County Commissioners and the public will have the information needed to move ahead or leave the project for another day.