The next time someone claims ballparks can’t spur economic development, send them to Fort Wayne, where yet another round of development near Parkview Field is in the works.
Anyone who spent time in downtown Fort Wayne knows what a wasteland the ballpark area was before the ownership of the Fort Wayne TinCaps (Low Class A; Midwest League) came in with a redevelopment plan that included Parkview Field, a hotel and the creation of a TIF district to fund further development.
TIF districts sometimes get a bad rap as being slush funds for developers, and there certainly are cities where TIF districts were mismanaged. But in most situations the creation of a TIF district can be an important economic-development tool.
As was the case in downtown Fort Wayne, where a four-acre site next to Parkview Field is being eyed as home to new development in the form of apartments or row houses. The Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission has options on the land and is currently preparing an appraisal; potential developers have already approached the city about putting up housing. It’s become clear over the last decade that a key to a vibrant downtown isn’t in the unlimited creation of office space: it’s about bringing in residents and creating an economically viable community.
In Fort Wayne, the ballpark has been central to creating that community. This was not an easy process: it required owners with vision and capital, and a city govermnent willing to work with private investors. There’s no doubt the TinCaps ownership — Hardball Capital, led by Jason Freier — and front-office mangement have created a template for a ballpark investment leading to economic growth.
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