Coliseum plans to add 27,000 sq. feet of expo space

$2.7 million in renovations underway this summer

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Leaders at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum are in the designing stage of a 27,000 square foot expansion to its expo center.  If things go as planned, the $16-million project would begin construction in early 2015.

Randy Brown, the Coliseum’s general manager, said the work still needs a few approvals, but the additional space would bring in bigger events.

“The farm show has a waiting list of over 150 companies,” Brown said about the proposed space.  “The thought of an additional 150 companies would be a huge boost to local hotels and restaurants.  The home show has a need for more space.  There’s a food show we’ve lost because it got too big, and we’re in discussions to get it back.”

Brown added that the Coliseum already brings $100 million a year to the local economy.

This week it was announced that a wrestling tournament would make its way to the Coliseum next year.  Brown said that tournament and a volleyball tournament have already expressed interest in the new space, too.

“That south glass crescent that you see will essentially get chopped off,” said Brown.  “We’ll lose a meeting room for a year, and you’ll see construction fences out there.  We’ll say pardon our dust, but the work will be well worth the fuss.”

The expanded expo will get bonded out at $16 million, but won’t cost taxpayers.  Brown said the bond will be paid back at approximately $1.3 million each year, but the Coliseum receives $2.6 million each year from the Professional Sports Area Fund, a tax that is collected from the Coliseum’s revenue.

“We’re not a tax burden to the taxpayers of Allen County,” said Brown, who added that the Coliseum is one of a few facilities nationally that is self-sustaining.  “We’ve been very fortunate to have the revenues to keep the Coliseum at a top level.”

Brown said if things go as planned, construction on the expansion will begin in January of 2015, and be completed about 12 months later.  Some additional work outside the new space would not get complete until sometime around September of 2016.  The additional space will give the Coliseum more than 1,000,000 square feet under its roof.

Other work is already underway inside the Coliseum.

The home of the Fort Wayne Komets and Mad Ants closed in mid-June to complete phase two of renovations.

“We’ve got roof work taking place,” Brown said.  “We’re putting in new epoxy resin flooring.”

The new flooring has been installed on the 200 level, but not at the work still remains on the main level.

“The other element that I think people are going to be excited about is the hand-railing in the arena,” Brown said.  “We’ve had a lot of feedback from guests commenting that, in their opinion, it’d be safer if there was hand railing down all the aisles.”

The bill for this summer’s work costs $2.7 million.  Last summer was phase one of the work, which totaled $3.9 million.  “We split the work between two summers because we didn’t want to be closed down for a whole year,” Brown said.

Crews have been working in three shifts 24-hours a day to get the work done in time for the Coliseum’s next scheduled show.  The Christian teacher, Beth Moore will hold her Living Proof Live tour at the Coliseum on September 12 and 13.

Brown said more than 8,500 tickets have already been sold.

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