Indiana Tech, citing opposition, pulls Memorial Park plans

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Indiana Tech has pulled plans to create a softball stadium and other athletic facilities inside nearby and city of Fort Wayne-owned Memorial Park, the university announced Tuesday.

Indiana Tech planned to build a new track and field facility, a 350-seat, lighted softball stadium, and a 10,000-square-foot athletic training and office facility within Memorial Park. The $6.4 million project called for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to own the new facilities and Indiana Tech lease them, which would allow for both university and public use.

Vice President of University Relations Brian Engelhart said it wasn’t an easy decision.

“Being a neighbor and being part of the community we also want to be respectful of other viewpoints,” Engelhart said.

Englehart said there was a lot of feedback. But overall, the idea wasn’t well received. “Hearing from the community, it seemed like this was good project maybe not the right place.”

All of the facilities at Memorial Park would have remained, including the pool, splash pad, playground, basketball courts and pavilion. To make room for the track, though, Indiana Tech officials said they would have to flatten the hills, relocate the park’s historic monuments and either relocate or regrow trees.

The trees were the sticking point.

The plan drew the ire of groups like Friends of the Parks of Allen County and ARCH of Fort Wayne, which each argued the project would disrupt the historic monuments and tree grove that honor local soldiers who died in World War I as well as past, current and future veterans of Allen County.

Indiana Tech President Dr. Arthur Snyder said the university wanted to be “respectful of opposing viewpoints.”

Snyder issued the following statement.

On behalf of everyone at Indiana Tech, thank you to the Parks Board, Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation staff, Mayor Henry, and the many project supporters around our community for considering this proposal,” said Snyder. “Our intent from the start has been to create new facilities that would both serve our students – the next generation of talented young people who will help lead our city – and create new facilities within the park for the entire community to enjoy. While we believe our proposal would bring new, positive activity to Memorial Park, we have also heard a wide range of feedback on the project and want to be respectful of opposing viewpoints. With this in mind, we have withdrawn our proposal from consideration.

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry, who championed the project at a press conference last month, said he was disappointed the plans were pulled but understood.

“I want to thank Indiana Tech for proposing an initiative that would have allowed not only the continuation of a beautiful park memorial but would have also provided a unique opportunity to enhance east central Fort Wayne,” Henry said. “Though I’m disappointed this project won’t be moving forward, I understand and support Indiana Tech’s decision to withdraw the proposal.”

Parks Director Al Moll said Indiana Tech should be credited with keeping a public dialogue about the project open. Moll said he wasn’t surprised this decision came to be but he was surprised about the initial response.

“I was surprised and I didn’t anticipate the push back we got because I honestly thought it was a good project, but apparently I thought wrong and that was pretty clear,” Moll said.

Moll said important partners like Friends of the Parks and ARCH weren’t on board.

Tom Cain with Friends of the Parks said they worried about 100 years of history being lost.

“The Indiana Tech proposal would have required that a substantial part of the park, in particular the memorial tree grove and the landscape surrounding it, would be obliterated by the construction of the running track,” Cain said.

Cain said they wish Indiana Tech the best in finding a new location for their ideas. “This is not a win or lose situation,” Cain said. “What we want to do is find solutions that are the best solutions for the community.”

Indiana Tech has notified the Fort Wayne Parks Board of Commissioners and Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department of its decision to withdraw the proposal. The university will continue to work to identify possible locations for its softball and track and field facilities