Facebook group takes aim at proposed downtown arena

A Facebook page has been made in opposition to proposed plans to build an arena in downtown Fort Wayne.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) People are turning to social media to speak out against proposed plans to build a 5,000 seat arena in the city’s downtown.

A Facebook page called “Stop Fort Wayne Downtown Arena” was created about a week and a half ago by Mike Burgess. Burgess said he got the idea after being involved in the movement against the proposed annexation that was shot down by City Council earlier this month.

“Somebody had brought up isn’t somebody going to do something about his arena like the other side hasn’t been heard from,” Burgess said.

Once he started the page, it started getting attention. By Thursday afternoon it had about 400 likes.

Burgess said he can’t support the proposed plan for a few reasons. He said he doesn’t think Mad Ants games can generate enough revenue to support the multi-million dollar arena. He said he’s also concerned about tax payer money going into a project that he said he doesn’t think will be successful.

“If somebody came forward with private funds and says, ‘Here’s 85 million Fort Wayne, let’s make this work.’ I think a lot of people can rally around that, but I think as it stands we’re going to end up using $85 million of taxpayer money for this arena,” Burgess said.

Fort Wayne Spokesman John Perlich issued this statement in response to the Facebook page:

A final decision on a downtown arena has not been made. The City Administration is a supporter of a multipurpose entertainment, sports and events center as it would further strengthen Fort Wayne’s position as a leader in economic development opportunities and quality of place amenities that set us apart as a location where businesses, individuals and families want to invest.

Currently, the Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board (CIB) is leading a request for proposals process to engage an architectural and engineering firm to develop a schematic design of a possible downtown arena. This will allow for a more thorough evaluation of programming options and cost of construction. It’s vital to have the schematic design work be performed. This will assist in the efforts to determine if an investment in a new venue downtown is best for the community and region.

We’re encouraged to be in position to continue the positive momentum and investments being experiencing in Fort Wayne.”

Burgess said the Facebook page is really an open platform for people on all sides of the issue to talk about the proposed plans and their ideas. He said he wants to hear what they have to say and he might just change his stance, but for now he’s sticking with his stance.

“If I change my mind, maybe I change the page name from ‘Stop Downtown Arena’ to ‘Let’s go for It’, but as it stands now with the financials they way they look and the numbers they use for projection it’s not a good thing,” Burgess said.

Currently, the Capital Improvement Board is looking for a consultant to further study the proposed plans for a downtown arena.

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