Well the big announcement was made and I have had a chance to look it over. Both major newspapers have stories about it and their statistics contradict each other on several points. This project is still in its planning stages and so I think that some variance should be expected.
To make a long story short the proposal would build a new baseball stadium downtown for the Wizards. This project cannot be started without a new hotel coming to Fort Wayne that has at least 300 rooms... This project would also include a new parking garage that the City would manage, 60 upscale condo's and a small amount of retail space...
After looking the proposal over; it is not as bad of a proposal as I expected.
In my opinion there are several good things about the project:
1. I like the fact that they want to use an entire city block.
2. It sounds like they no longer want to demolish Memorial Stadium. Memorial Stadium will
be paid for on July 1st of 2007. It is a good baseball stadium and I do not think it should
be demolished. I am encouraged that IPFW thinks they may be able to utilize that
facility. This needs to be explored fully.
3. It sounds like the City will not abuse its power of Eminent Domain on this project beyond
its shameful seizure of Belmont Beverage's property over five years ago.
In my opinion there are several bad things about the project:
1. The project hinges on a new hotel being built in downtown Fort Wayne on the property the
City of Fort Wayne shamefully stole from Belmont Beverages with its abuse of eminent
domain. The occupancy rate of Fort Wayne hotels fluctuates between 42% and 49%.
Several new hotels are going to be built in Fort Wayne in the next couple of years on the
north side of town. The City of Fort Wayne should not get into the hotel business...
2. The City plans on building a 1000 space parking garage and having The City manage it.
This is a very bad idea. The City cannot efficiently run a Parking garage!
Many Fort Wayne residents have utilized the Parking garage that is located next to the City
County Building in downtown Fort Wayne. This existing parking garage has room for 985
cars and is about the same size as the proposed new parking garage. I would argue that the
existing parking garage that is next to the City County Building is located in one of the best
possible locations downtown to make money. It is right next to the City County Building and
it is one block from the Jail and the Court House.
Per an independent Fort Wayne CPA named Ron Reinking the City lost approximately $930,052 dollars from 2002 - 2005 on this strategically placed parking garage. This certainly does NOT bode well for a City managed Parking Garage in a location that will draw far fewer people.
There is also another problem with the Parking Garage idea. Half of the parking spaces will
be reserved for Lincoln employees during the work week. This means the parking Garage
will lose even more money each year. Another City Parking Garage will be another money pit that the taxpayers are forced to pay for each year.
3. There are a lot of people saying that the public money will not be coming from tax payers
and that displays a lack of understanding on how government works. All public money
comes from the tax payers... We will be paying for it one way or another.
4. About half of the money from the project will be public money, that is very discouraging.
I would think that a project like this should be almost totally funded with private
investment. Past projects have been built 100% with public money; so maybe I should look at 50% as being an improvement over some of our past mistakes.
I will have to look into the financial side of this project in the future. I have learned not to trust figures for projects that the government provides; they are often inaccurate in my experience.
I will reserve judgment on this project until all of the facts come out. I can say this much; the project as outlined is better then I expected. I do wish that Fort Wayne would stay out of both the Hotel and Baseball business. Fees are skyrocketing in Fort Wayne and I think Fort Wayne should focus on ways to provide the services they provide in a more efficient manner!