FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)- Hundreds of people showed up to a public hearing to weigh in on a plan to change Memorial Park, Thursday night. The park was built nearly 100 years ago to honor World War I veterans. Indiana Tech’s proposed changes would mean some of those memorials would have to be moved and trees cut down. Veterans and others want the park to be left alone.
Indiana Tech wants to build a $6.4 million athletic facility. It would include a new track and field, a softball stadium, and an athletic training and an office. The university would own and manage the new facilities, while the city’s Parks and Recreation Department will maintain the park’s current facilities and open spaces.
Most of speakers asked the board to reconsider plans to move memorials to make way for Indiana Tech’s athletic facility. Instead, they’re calling on them invest in fixing up the park.
“Let’s replant trees, fix the memorials, keep this park for what it was intended for,” said Shannon Miller, who’s lived in the neighborhood for more than 20 years.
Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards is also a part of the historic preservation group Architecture and Community Heritage (ARCH). Richards said the group has proposed several alternative locations but they were led to believe neighbors were in support of Indiana Tech’s proposal to use Memorial Park.
“I want everybody in here who opposes this project to nicely and kindly raise their hand,” she said.
Dozens of hands went up.
“If Indiana Tech wants to be a good citizen, what they really ought to do donate a million dollars to fix up this park,” said Karen Richards.
Brian Engelhart, Vice-President of Communication at Indiana Tech said the school’s softball team has been practicing at Memorial Park for years. That is what sparked the idea to build a stadium there.
“It’s bringing life to a park that is in need of some revitalization,” aid Engelhart. “I think some additional traffic here would really highlight the history more than anything else.”
Engelhart said the park will remain accessible to the public. The track and field would be open from dusk until dawn every day, he said. The softball stadium and meeting rooms in the athletic facility could be reserved.
Still, veterans say they’ll do everything in their power to save the park as they know it.
“World War I vets are not here to defend themselves so we are going to defend it for them,” said Patricia Allison, a 13-year Army Veteran.
Allison said she and other veterans are working on getting people to sign petitions to stop construction on Memorial Park.
Another public hearing is scheduled for June.