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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Who and what both count

In pushing for Harrison Square, Mayor Graham Richard is right to stress that it is drawing private investment, a must for any such project to succeed:

“It's not about the baseball stadium, it's about the investors,” Richard said of Hardball Capital, the Atlanta-based company that owns Fort Wayne's minor league team and has committed $5 million to the proposed stadium. “If it were just a downtown stadium, I never would have proposed it.”

But that overstates the case a little, doesn't it? It's at least partly about the baseball stadium. If an investor came to us with a great idea for a landfill or a hog-farm downtown, I presume he would be turned down.

Posted in: Our town


Wed, 01/31/2007 - 6:17am

What the Mayor neglects to address is why Hardball's putting up so little relative to the entire cost. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why. Hardball considers the project a bad risk.

On the other hand, if they get a first-rate taxpayer-subsidized facility out of it, $5 million's chickenfeed.

Kevin Knuth
Wed, 01/31/2007 - 6:20am

I think you have a point- the WHO and WHAT count.

I read Graham's comments and took it to mean he was commenting on the WHAT- and it is NOT a baseball stadium. It is the development as a whole- and that is what folks have to keep in mind.

Wed, 01/31/2007 - 7:06am

That's crap, Kevin. Tell me why this development NEEDS a baseball stadium as opposed to a water park, IMAX theatre, art center, miniature golf course or a shuffle board venue? If a convention center can't attract a hotel, why will a single A baseball stadium do so? ONLY the proposed city financed ($10 million dollar plus land acquisition cost) and city subsidized parking garage makes a hotel more attractive by relieving the hotel developer of the cost of providing parking.

Sure, let's ignore the exorbitantly priced baloney on week old bread entree, and focus "on the meal as a whole." Appetizer, salad and dessert sound great, and they are free, sort of. So let's not criticize the $30.00 baloney sandwich; if we can swallow it, we might get a $2.00 piece of cheesecake. Whopee!

Kevin Knuth
Wed, 01/31/2007 - 7:10am


You are focusing on the ballpark- you need to look at the project as a whole. The total investment is what matters

From a previous Kevin Leininger column:
"The Indiana Economic Development Commission refused to approve a CRED credit for the proposed $30 million stadium, however

Kevin Knuth
Wed, 01/31/2007 - 7:14am


Great idea- put in an IMAX or a Waterpark. Now....who is going to pay for that?

Hardball Capital has been very open, they are willing to invest their millions- if it includes a ballpark.

If not, they are not interseted in the development.

From the blog "Downtownfortwaynebaseball":

"The point is that Hardball Capital is an outside company willing to invest millions in private dollars in downtown Fort Wayne. What other opportunities are available right now? Where's the developer lining up to present a plan on a water park? Where's the developer with a proposal for a youth sports complex? Hardball Capital is in the city now, knocking on the door, asking to invest in downtown Fort Wayne. The success of a project such as Harrison Square makes possible further investments in downtown Fort Wayne from private developers once they see that our city is a viable location in which to dedicate their dollars."

I agree

Wed, 01/31/2007 - 7:44am

No, Kevin, none of those people are knocking on the door. But the City didn't announce, generally, "Hey, Sweetheart deals available with public money! Come talk to us! Dollar for dollar investment match! Free land, free parking, tax credits galore! Give uis your ideas, will give you our millions!

No, in typical Fort Wayne fashion, a select few cut some behind the scene deals and now, with misleading information, they cram it down our throats.

Do you really think it would be hard to get a big theatre downtown if the city provided all the land, 85% of the capital, and a long-term lease pegged at covering only the city provided maintenance and upkeep? Maybe Jerry Henry has some ideas if he knew the city would put up $70 million in land, cash, tax credits and, don't forget, GIGANTIC, unspecified legal and consulting fees, in exchange for him putting in $65 million.

What makes you think Hardball Capital is doing us a favor with the "maybe" condos and retail rather than the other way around. Your prior post speaks of the "value" of these projects. What is the actual investment cost of Hardball Capital after the free land, free improvements and tax credits? Why no competitive bidding for these projects and then, people like you saying "nobody else was knocking on the door." Maybe nobody else was knocking on the door because nobody else even knew the city was out buying land witrh the intention of giving it away. Nobody else even knew we were open for business, let alone holding a fire sale!

This project, yes the TOTAL PACKAGE, stinks!

Wed, 01/31/2007 - 10:13am

So Say I wanted to build a $10 million Deja Vu/ casino/ high rise whorehouse downtown?
you think the city would bend over forwards for the opportunity to finance this dubious venture?
I would bring lots of traffic downtown, and create hundreds of jobs.
We can finance it with CRED, CEDIT, TIF, and the usual assortment of flim-flam financing. no property taxes would be involved- so that the richy-rich types that are retired wont have to be bothered.

remember the old bus station? nobody bothered to "invest" in that building downtown.
And will we be able to play football there?
Since we're wasting my tax dollars, lets make it a domed stadium- then blow it up 10 yrs from now, and make it bigger, and go through all the stadium financing charades by scam-artist charlatans, using OPM financing, to line their own, and developers pockets.

Nobody will give me any cash or venture capital to finance my busniess ventures- I'm sick of the rich using the minimum wages of the poor to finance their dream homes in sycamore hills, and cherry hill.

They laughed at my proposal to build a speedway- Harvester may want to sell their test track, and beanfield - If you build it, they will come...
After alll, we cant have world class auto racing without a world class race track?
Or is it all about the downtown denizens who will promptly spilt downtown @ 501 pm for their daily suburban exodus?

How many of our government, and downtown wheeler-dealers will be sitting in the outfield, drinking warm, overpriced beers, patting themselves on the back, while gazing at the mostly vacant Grandiose Wayne Center, and concocting more ways to waste the hard earned monies of the proiletariat?

Take yourself out to your own ball game- dont use my money, and you can do whatever you want downtown.

like Yogi Berra said-"Its Deja VU all over again"

And comparing Atlanta to fort Wayne is like comparing a sour, wormy hoosier apple to a
ripe, sweet georgia peach, by the way...

Reno Nevada is a better comparison...

tim zank
Wed, 01/31/2007 - 3:30pm

That is the most coherent I have ever heard roach. Makes some valid observations.

Steve Towsley
Wed, 01/31/2007 - 4:01pm

>Or is it all about the downtown denizens
>who will promptly spilt downtown @ 501 pm
>for their daily suburban exodus?

I think downtown's daylight denizens will HAVE to split at 5:01 pm if they hope to get out in time to beat the traffic gridlock that will occur as people all try to travel to a ballpark at about the same time for a game that may start at 6 or 7 pm.

If the newspapers did a survey asking people in the region what their strategy would be for going to a downtown ball game, I think you'd find that nearly all of them will tell you they would try to finesse the situation by finding the slickest way into town and their favorite stadium parking, then leaving as the game seconds tick down to zero so they can all try to beat one another to the parking and onto the very few routes OUT of town before the long, slow lines develop.

I would like to be proven wrong on all this stuff, but nobody is doing that kind of due diligence, except for the guy who is currently guaranteeing that the spot where Baker Street merges with Fairfield (I think it's Fairfield...) will create an hour delay for traffic trying to reach the proposed stadium location. I've been saying all along that any such street issues will HAVE to be upgraded before any stadium should be allowed to open for business.

In fact, the best option for a large stadium in a relatively small downtown would be to build a modern expressway feeder into and out of the stadium parking lot -- which of course would undercut the supposed purpose of the ballpark development by guiding all the traffic efficiently in and out of the venue -- without ever coming in contact with any adjacent shops or restaurants.

Mike Sylvester
Wed, 01/31/2007 - 7:31pm

There are a LOT of unanswered questions in this project.

My largest problem with it is the City building and operating a new parking garage.

The existing parking garage that is nestled with the City-County Building is run by Allen County.

An Independent Fort Wayne CPA showed that this parking garage was losing ABOUT $250,000 each and every year.

I am not sure how much the new parking garage will lose per year; however, consider this:

1. The new parking garage is in a WORSE location.
2. The new parking garage will be built from the ground up. This will result in bonds and these bonds will have to be paid back with interest.
3. The new parking garage is going to allow Lincoln to use HALF of its parking spots during the work week. This will remove revenue for sure.

I am not sure how much the new parking garage would lose per year; however, I think it is safe to say that the new parking garage will lose significantly more money then the existing County run parking garage. If I had to guess I would estimate that the new parking garage may lose a half a million dollars per year.

The City of Fort Wayne (Read taxpayers) will have to finance this annual loss...

Where do you think that money will come from?

I would guess it will end up coming from property taxes or some "new fangled" tax.

Anyone have any other ideas?

Mike Sylvester

Steve Towsley
Wed, 01/31/2007 - 8:10pm

>Anyone have any other ideas?
>Mike Sylvester

My only other idea is that I imagine some "city fathers" should be reading these threads, and when they do, they are realizing that "the people" are not as stupid as the stadium-supporting politicians would like to think.

Most stadium supporters seem bent on fast tracking its approval without attending to details like street upgrades, parking estimates, and limits on disruptive uses of the stadium for other events -- to name but a few critical factors.

I've never met a capitalist who would bow to all these kinds of stipulations and limitations AFTER a contract was signed. It has to be done beforehand. And if it can't be done, the handwriting is on the wall that some profiteers were trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the mayor and city council.

I really can't say it more simply than that, I think.

Wed, 01/31/2007 - 9:10pm

The city "fathers" are all attuned to what's happening. They're freaked by it. They're trying to dummyproof their estates so that what they leave for the betterment of the Fort will never be wasted on something like this.

Thu, 02/01/2007 - 5:44am

The parking garage is THE critical component of this sleight of hand project:

1. It is necessary to obtain the land for the stadium. Lincoln has abundant surface parking in the area that has to be replaced, at least in the near term. Apparently, Lincoln will get free or reduced parking in the garage. This is the sort of detail that might be made public if we had a newspaper in town.

2. The parking garage, priced independently, hides the true public cost of the baseball stadium and the true (even lower) percentage contribution by Hardball Capital. If you or I wanted to build a baseball stadium with our own money, we would have to allocate for parking for fans.

3. It lowers (further) the cost of the hotel by shifting the parking component to the public. Prior RFPs for the hotel included developer provided parkin for hotel guests. The new garage lops $5 million or more off the developer cost for the hotel.

4. The parking garage is a wonderful place to hide expenses for this project. For example, the City COULD be negotiating to give 80 to 100% of game day parking revenues to Hard Ball Capital, increasing future operating losses for the City but helping Hardball Capital recoup their $5 million investment more quickly. Who knows? These questions don't get asked in Fort Wayne.

Steve Towsley
Sun, 02/04/2007 - 10:14pm

>The parking garage is a wonderful place
>to hide expenses for this project. For >example, the City COULD be negotiating to
>give 80 to 100% of game day parking
>revenues to Hard Ball Capital...

Somebody should clue in Hardball to the current high level of resistance in Fort Wayne to the high cost of garage parking --
for example, in the Jefferson/Clinton Steets parking garage while attending events in the Embassy or the Grand Wayne.

Having chaired a few events at the Grand Wayne myself which attracted about 1000 persons each, I can say authoritatively that an extremely large percentage of local folks are convinced that parking garages are WAY too expensive.

People around here will gripe over every dollar of increase in a gate ticket price. They budget an evening at an event by judging the cost of admission; much of the time, locals are loathe to shell out anything extra for a parking space, especially an amount which adds significantly to the cost cost of the evening.

Folks in NE Indiana are often maxed out by purchasing a ticket, and they have a mindset which does not accept parking as a large portion of the price of their evening.

People here often aren't usually impressed by expensive luxuries; they neither aspire to keep up with any Joneses, nor value extravagant luxuries the way people often do on both coasts for example. Many would just as soon save money, even on a special Saturday night, by dumping the plans for a white tablecloth dinner with monkey suits and upscale parking in favor of a tasty hog roast with blue jeans on paper plates.

At least, that's what they often told me as we planned the usual annual banquet with out-of-town speaker in the Hilton/Grand Wayne complex. They'll show up and look good and enjoy themselves, but they really don't need it, a lot of the time. And they've more than likely walked blocks from some public parking lot rather than drive in to the gated garage -- skyway notwithstanding;.

If you doubt my experience on this, make your own study -- consider why, for example, valet parking has never caught on here and is virtually non-existent in Fort Wayne's night life scene. Premium parking is mostly considered an exhorbitant waste of good money. That's why the Coliseum has such difficulty whenever they raise THEIR rate.

If people around here don't feel an event's sponsors have provided sufficient resources for things like their ability to park and attend without a lot of extra fees over and above the ticket price, these folks are very likely to make it a point of pride to stay home.

Moral: It doesn't really matter who would own the parking garage adjacent the ballpark. They'd quickly learn you can't charge stiff fees to park for anything but the most drop-dead required-viewing events around here -- like maybe a Beatles reunion with resurrected John and George on guitars.

Anything less, and a stiff parking fee will prevent not only the parking from filling up, but the stadium as well, no matter who operates the car lot.

I once ran a business here in town. I know for certain that assumption is the mother of all screw-ups in this area. And that only the ignorant open businesses in NE Indiana without first doing competent market research on all of the planned or assumed sources of revenue. Otherwise, buy bonds. You'll do better.

Never think, when I post, that I'm just another blog wise a**. I can prove my stuff if I really have to defend my case downtown some day. But short of that, as I always say -- I'll gladly share my informed opinion, but if you doubt me, keep in mind that I won't do your homework for you.