Category Archives: Weighing in on Harrison Square

A Brief Visit to Victory Field in Indy

I was in Indy today and took a walk down to Victory Field (home of the Indianapolis Indians). The gates were open, as was the team shop. Got to take a real quick around as they prepared for a Cancer Walk that will take place tomorrow. Guess you really can promote healthy events at the ballpark. 🙂

BTW: I would have taken more pictures had I actually brought my camera. This one was taken with my camera phone.

Might Toledo Use Fort Wayne as a Model?

As the ballpark at Harrison Square has been debated and discussed, there was much talk of looking to other cities, such as Dayton and Louisville for inspiration, ideas and lessons learned. I had even heard – and often suggested – that the developers look to Toledo for the same reasons.

Having visited there in 2006 for the Triple-A All-Star Game, I saw a great facility that had little to surround it. While it was not as bad as Detroit, where you walk out of a beautiful stadium and suddenly feel like you’ve been dropped into a scene from The Road Warrior or Mad Max, Toledo bored me. There was absolutely nothing to do near the park. Yet, you could tell they were on the upswing (or so I thought).

2006 Triple-A All-Star Game in Toledo 

At the time, it seemed to me that Toledo was several steps ahead of Fort Wayne. However, Toledo Blade Staff Writer Matthew Eisen (wonder if there’s any relation to former Daisies player, Tibby Eisen), posits that Toledo may look to Fort Wayne for inspiration.

In Fort Wayne, Ind. — a city with a metro population equal to Toledo’s, just short of 600,000 — a comprehensive plan released in 2002 provided the blueprints for 76 downtown projects.

Sharon Feasel, a redevelopment specialist for Fort Wayne, said the city has completed nearly 50 percent of those objectives, including expansion of its convention center and smaller initiatives such as the landscaping of city center medians.

The second-largest city in Indiana is in the middle of building a new ballpark for its Class A minor league baseball team, the Fort Wayne Wizards, in the Harrison Square area downtown. The project includes a Marriott hotel and 60 new condominiums.

“We set about the process of thinking about all of the complexities of downtown,” she said. “Downtown, everyone has to do everything together, and you have to mix all uses, all races, all incomes, mix all everything.

“We just literally set about trying to promise that this wasn’t going to be a plan that sat on the shelf.”

Ms. Feasel said the plan has experienced so much success that Fort Wayne produced an update — Blueprint Plus — zeroing in on more specific parts of downtown, including the waterfront along the city’s own stretch of the Maumee River.

Eisen’s article bases a lot of Toledo’s current momentum on the tenets of an architectural movement that is collectively known as New Urbanism; which is a concept that “endorses the creation of heterogeneous neighborhoods with a variety of shops, offices, and accessible green space while encouraging public transportation and walking.”

During the years of 1950 to 2007, urban populations grew from 110 million to 275 million. During the same time frame, rural populations grew from 62 million to 63 million. Projections suggest that urban populations will to continue to ascend — increasing to 401 million by 2050. At the same time, rural populations are expected to fall to 44 million.

New Urbanism definitely has its advantages. Higher density creates lower energy costs. Working near employment reduces commutes, and further saves energy. Additionally, there is always a social outlet for those seeking it.

Naturally, this is a type of living environment that caters to young professionals. I’ve observed this fact many times over. Those who are for the HS project, are typically 30 and under. Those who are against it, are typically . . . well, older than that. (While I like comments, let me preempt potential backlash by observing that I did NOT say every 30 year-old loves the Harrison Square idea and everyone over 30 hates it). Chew on this for a minute:

The millennial generation — 78 million born from 1977 to 1996 — has started becoming a major part of the work force as baby boomers — 82 million born from 1946 to 1964 — begin to take a bow and pack up their desks. The group of fresh workers might be more apt to look for residences downtown if their jobs are already there . . .

With jobs generating activity during the day, and residents filling the void in the evenings, downtowns suddenly become more attractive to other businesses, much as they were 50 years ago when they served as the hub of industry.

Most urban planners agree revitalization then typically goes to entertainment — restaurants, nightclubs, theaters, sports venues — followed by retail, a far more fickle downtown staple, all on the heels of other developments to complete the city center package.

Eisen concludes his piece by stating that “[v]ery few cities in the country the size of Toledo have a ballpark, a convention center, a world-class art museum, a picturesque waterfront, and a budding arena to attract visitors and residents to the city.”

While he is correct, I look to Fort Wayne. Fort Wayne has all that, plus a phenomenal public library, the Embassy Theatre, the Botanical Conservatory, additional museums and plenty of dining options. Honestly, this is an opportunity that others have worked very hard to achieve, and one that can’t be passed up.

I guess Fort Wayne isn’t that far behind after all.

Era of Baseball in Fort Wayne to End as Another Begins

Three more games. That’s all that’s left in the history of baseball at Memorial Stadium.

Three more games. That’s all that’s left in the regular season home schedule of the Fort Wayne Wizards.

Three more games. That’s all that we’ll see the “Wizards” take the field in Fort Wayne, barring a miraculous run to make the playoffs.

In 1993, local old-timers like Red Braden ushered in an era of baseball in Fort Wayne. In 2008, a local up-and-comer who was a 2007 first-round draftpick will effectively bring that era to an end.

Memorial Stadium

Jarrod Parker, the ninth overall pick in 2007, will take the mound for the visiting South Bend Silverhawks during Thursday’s Memorial Stadium finale against the home team Fort Wayne Wizards.

Parker is 11-5 during his first professional season. He has a 3.59 earned run average over 23 starts. In 112.2 innings, the former Norwell High School star has struck out 110. Last year, Parker helped lead the Knights to a 35-0 season, which included bringing home the Class 3A state baseball title, and Indiana’s Mr. Baseball in addition to several other accolades.

Wynn Pelzer (9-5) will start for the Wizards. In 28 games, Pelzer has a 2.84 ERA while allowing 107 hits, 28 bases on balls and 97 strikeouts in 114 innings.

The Fort Wayne Wizards have put together many great events and promotions for the week. It was kicked off with the naming of the All-Time Wizards on Sunday. Today, they announced the all-time Memorial Stadium team of players who came through Fort Wayne either as a visiting team or a home team. That list includes Alex Rodriguez, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Albert Pujols, Torii Hunter, Adam Dunn, Johnny Damon, Jake Peavy, and Billy Wagner among others.

Three more games. That’s all that’s left before the physical reminder of fifteen years worth of memories meets its fate with a wrecking ball. And the Wizards are senging it out with style.

After the last game, fans will be allowed to run the bases as they usually do. Limmer said they also will be given an opportunity to throw a “final pitch” from the pitcher’s mound. Front-office personnel considered having a ceremony to turn off the lights, but wanted the fans more actively involved.

And the chances are, Corey Kluber’s selection as last week’s Midewst League Pitcher of the Week will be the last in the grand history of the Fort Wayne Wizards.

Midwest League poses little challenge for him. On Aug. 19, Kluber had the week’s best start, striking out 11 batters over eight one-hit innings against Lansing. Unfortunately, the game was a pitcher’s duel that Fort Wayne lost in the 10th. Pitching against the same Lugnuts five days later, Kluber exacted a bit of revenge, and the win, this time with 10 strikeouts and four hits allowed over five innings.

Three more games. And tomorrow, one of the most recent breakthrough former Wizards, Chase Headley will field questions from fans in a live chat on padres.com at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Three more games. That’s all that’s left. And bloggers are memorializing Memorial Stadium in which he ask’s the Journal Gazette’s Ben Smith to tell us how he feels about it.

Three more games. And then several months during the offseason. That’s all that stands between this moment and opening day of a new era of baseball  in Fort Wayne. That’s when the first pitch will be thrown by a player from a yet-to-be-named Fort Wayne team from the mound at the ballpark at Harrison Square.

Three more games. That’s all that’s left before a hometown hero takes the mound in Fort Wayne. It’s ironic that it took fifteen years, but how fitting that it will be such a person to send the stadium out and effectively be the usher to the end of one era and the gatekeeper to the beginning of another.

Wizards Want Your Input on Name Change Possibility

The process of selecting a new name for Fort Wayne’s Minor League Baseball team continues with the next phase of public feedback. After sifting through more than 2,500 team name suggestions over the last three weeks, the team again looks to the public to provide guidance.

“We were impressed with both the sheer number and the creativity of team name submissions,” stated General Manager, Mike Nutter. “That makes it that much more difficult to choose the new name for the team.”

The team is asking the public to help one more time in the decision-making process. “We could go in any number of directions with the names we’ve received,” said Nutter. “We’re hoping that the community will help. We’ve identified four primary themes into which many of the suggested names fall into and we want fans to let us know which direction they prefer.”

The four categories that the team has identified are:

– FORT WAYNE ICONS and/or PROMINENT HISTORICAL INDIVIDUALS
– FORT WAYNE GEOGRAPHY (THREE RIVERS, SUMMIT, ETC.)
– FORT WAYNE’S HISTORY AS A CENTER OF INNOVATION and INVENTION
– The “OLD FORT” or SIMILAR MILITARY THEME

While the public gives their feedback, the team will be busy narrowing down the considerable list of potential names. “We are hoping that with the names we have received and this additional public input we can zero in on the best name and begin the considerable work required from there to design and develop a logo and team identity,” said Nutter. “It has always been our goal to create a brand that Fort Wayne and the surrounding community can identify with and embrace as their own.”

To give your feedback, CLICK HERE

Ballpark at Harrison Square Topped Off

The last major piece of steel was put into place today at a topping off ceremony. Members of the City Council, the Redevelopment Commission, Barry Real Estate, the Fort Wayne Wizards and the Northeast Indiana community were on hand for the occasion that saw many signatures and messages inscribed on the beam before being raised to is final location on the left side of the stadium’s entrance.

“Today is an achievement in the revitalization of the heart of our city,” said Mayor Henry. “The topping off marks an important point in the construction of the Harrison Square ballpark, just like Harrison Square marks an important point in making downtown Fort Wayne a great place to live, work and play.”

Video: Mayor Tom Henry Speaks (1:00)
Video: Barry Real Estate CEO, Chris Schoen explains the topping off (0:47)
Video: The Ballpark Gets Topped Off (3:31)
[note: sorry for the background vocals on the last video. They were right behind me.]

Gallery: Photos from the event

More Coverage:

More on the Wizards’ Name Change

Since the official announcement, I have heard many people in favor of the Wizards’ possible name change — and I have probably heard just as many who are against it.

  • Indiana News Center’s Dean Pantazi reminds us that “General manager Mike Nutter, who dropped the hint of a possible name change with the move to Harrison Square as early as last August.”
  • Ben Smith takes and interesting twist on looking to history for a new name.
  • Neil Kelty at Political Equinox cites the success of the organization to favor keeping the name – you’ll have to read the whole article to understand how it applies to politics.
  • The New-Sentinel’s Reggie Hayes doesn’t seem to favor changing the name – OF ANYTHING!

In my humble opinion, a name change is something that the Wizards must consider. It doesn’t mean they have to change the name. However, opportunities for repositioning a brand or rebranding only come along every so often, and now is the perfect opportunity.

I have my own ideas for team names, and they are not the Kekiongas, the Generals, or even the City Lights. For that matter, we might as well consider the Lady Wayne Chocolates, the Dairymen or even Capeharts. All good names that did well to characterize teams in their respective days.

This is a new era. It needs to be new and forward thinking. It irks me when people instead take it as an apportunity to get their digs in about their distaste for Harrison Square. Okay, we get it. You’re mad and don’t approve. We hear you. It’s all well and good, but let’s support the project and hope it’s successful. Otherwise, the only fitting name might be the Summit City Apathy. Not sure what the mascot would look like, but visions of Oscar the Grouch come to mind.

But even it that were the case,  as long as you can use the ticket toget a discounted Billy Idol ticket, I’ll take it. REBEL YELL!!!

What Does Harrison Square Mean for the Wizards’ Future?

With the Harrison Square development, many folks have asked me what will happen with regards to the evolution of the Wizards team. They ask me if there will be a name change, league change, what the stadium name will be (presumably if there is one), if there will be a change in Major League affiliates etc. My typical answer: “I Don’t Know.” Here’s what I can tell you.

League and/or Level Change:

I doubt it, but anything is possible. Travel is always a consideration for a minor league baseball team. It not only creates a sense of regional rivalry, it cuts expenses because there is less fuel usage and fewer hotel stays. If you were to few the Minor League Baseball teams according to our region, you’ll see that there are not many options other than the Midwest League. There are 23 MiLB teams in the region. Of those teams, 17 are Class-A teams, one is Double-A and five are Triple-A.

Within the Single-A teams, 14 of the 17 are in the Midwest League. Of the three remaining, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers are in the New York-Penn League; which is Class-A Short Season (a level lower than the Midwest League). The other two teams in Class-A are the Lexington Legends and the Lake County Captains; who are in the South Atlantic League. The “Sally League,” operates primarily in the southeastern United States and is pretty much on the same level as the Midwest League. Moving to this league makes little sense because it would be a lateral move and mean more travel and hotel stays. The only benefit that local fans would see is a change in teams that come through the area.

Double A is pretty much out of the question. The only team within Indiana or any of the surrounding states at this level is the Akron Aeros; who are on the far east side of Ohio.

But what about Triple-A? That would put Fort Wayne at a level just below the MLB and unite them in the International League with the other teams in the region; Toledo, Louisville, Iowa, Columbus (Ohio) and Indianapolis. Methinks this would be the most likely option next to remaining in the Midwest League, but I seem to recall the park in Harrison Square being built to Double-A specs.

Stadium Name:

First there must be someone willing to pony up the money. To my knowledge, this has not happened. That said, the city of Fort Wayne will receive 50% of naming rights revenues (up to $300,000 per year) and 100% of revenues in excess of $300,000 per year. With the city involved in that aspect, methinks it will happen. With the sheer number of business entities using “Three Rivers” in their names, I’d suggest that all of them pool their money together and call it “Three Rivers Ballpark”.

Affiliate Change:

Since the Wizards’ tenure in Fort Wayne, there have been two MLB affiliations; the Minnesota Twins and (currently) the San Diego Padres. I don’t have the evidence to back this assertion, but I would imagine that Fort Wayne has the distinction of being the MiLB team that is furthest from their MLB parent club. Without a doubt, the team would benefit significantly to unite with a parent club that is closer in proximity to Northeast Indiana where there is a denser fan base. The Cubs, White Sox, Reds, Indians, Tigers and Brewers come to mind. If there were a change to Triple-A, the Toledo Mudhens might take up issue if Fort Wayne tried to hook up with the Tigers. Methinks there will be many Padres draft picks taking the field at the yet-to-be named ballpark in Harrison Square in 2009.

But What About the Team Name and Mascot?

Aha, Now here is something were there is evidence to support a change. In 1993, the Wizards came to Fort Wayne and Wayne the Wizard was Grand Marshall of the metaphoric parade. Years later, when General Sports purchased the team, they sent Wayne into virtual retirement where he has been a miserly hermit. He’s lost a step or two in his dance moves, but he is still seen from time to time on special occasions. In his place, Dinger the Dragon appeared and has been the mascot mainstay since that time.

As pointed out by WhatsGoingDown(Town), the mascot and the team name have very little linking to local affinity. I suggested they name Dinger “Mad Anthony” when General Sports held a suggestion contest, but apparently, the NBADL liked it better.

All that said, as of now, there are no definite plans for a name and/or mascot change:

“Freier said he has been too busy with other pressing matters, including getting units in the condominium building sold, to have a name change be a top priority. But he said it likely will be considered, especially because the name Wizards has nothing to do with Fort Wayne. Furthermore, it isn’t unique to the Summit City as Washington’s National Basketball Association team and Kansas City’s Major League Soccer team share the mascot.

Methinks; that when we walk through the turnstiles at Harrison Square in 2009, it won’t be to see the Wizards. However, I do hope we get a chance to see Dinger AND Wayne on hand to pass the torch to an exciting new era in baseball for Fort Wayne and all o Northeast Indiana.

A New Harrison Square Blog

I stumbled onto a new blog today. The blogger, listed only as “FW Citizen” has just two posts as of this writing, so who knows where it will go from here. It can be found at http://accountw331.blogspot.com.

The catalyst for the idea is the re-location of the Fort Wayne Wizards to a new stadium, which will be built in the new downtown Fort Wayne area. This is where the first concerns about the project are visible. The idea is to build around the new stadium and use it as the main attraction for the downtown area. However, the new stadium is costing 30 million and holds the same capacity as the current baseball stadium. This is just the first of several things that will be analyzed in this blog, as we try to look at Harrison Square and the reasoning for the mega million dollar project.

I’ll continue to monitor this one.