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Stadium Quiz: Where Will People Go In The Off Season?
By Gloria Diaz
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Fort Wayne Reader
There’s talk about putting a stadium downtown. I only go to maybe one Wizards game a year, so it isn’t going to be much of a draw for me.
But I do respect efforts to get people downtown. I think the revamped library is going to be a people magnet, particularly in the summer. I can envision impromptu concerts on the front entrance plaza, spontaneous art exhibits and who knows what else. If the ACPL staff and TRF organizers are smart, they will stage something every day on the plaza.
Downtown isn’t like the downtown of my youth. I remember my mother going to Sappenfield’s to get my brother’s hockey skates sharpened. Downtown seemed exotic and a bit dangerous, kind of like a different country. Mom and I rode the bus there on the days my father took the car to work. I remember Murphy’s and how cool having a staircase right there in the middle of the store seemed. In the days before the Americans With Disabilities Act, you could take liberties with store layouts. Murphy’s closed the year I was in beauty school. During its last gasping days, I went in there to browse, not realizing that I was witnessing the end of an era, but I was too young to appreciate it.
I remember downtown at night. During one Christmas season, my mother was hunting for Gnip Gnop, an obnoxiously loud game that was THE must have toy that season. I remember riding with her in our 1968 Chrysler Newport, the shadows sharpening and fading as our car passed under the streetlights, the theme from “Shaft” playing on the radio.
All that is gone. Now, there are renewed efforts to bring the people back from the subdivisions and malls that eventually led downtown to its demise. A stadium would be a good start, but I have a few suggestions to bring the non-sports-minded to the heart of the city.
*A Dave and Buster’s, within walking distance of the stadium. This restaurant chain is a combination upscale eatery, sports bar and video arcade. Every time I visit the one located in Chicago’s Gold Coast, it’s chock-full of children. The games are well maintained and the food is actually decent. I wouldn’t describe the restaurant as plush, but the wood furniture and ceiling fans give it a cozy feeling. D&B’s host a lot of corporate events, as well. So yeah, we don’t really need another restaurant, but having a Dave and Buster’s would get me downtown.
*An Imax theater. I’ve already asked Graham Richards about this. A baseball stadium is not going to draw people in the winter, so you have to have something year round. Families could split up and go to the game and to the movies, so everyone is happy. The theater would also be a draw in the winter. You can’t say that about the stadium.
*An “Artitorium.” For a small fee, you can pay to purchase materials to create a work of art (from instructions) or you can dream up something yourself. For an extra fee, you would be entitled to exhibit your work. Or, if you just wanted to take it home the same day, you could do that too. Think of it as an expanded version of Naked Clay Cafe, with the option of purchasing display space. This could work as a great promotional tool for businesses, artists, bloggers, or anyone with anything to say.
Finally, I have an idea to get Fort Wayne moving, literally. I’m envisioning an exercise path with short workouts in the downtown area. For those who wanted to participate, they would sign up to get a points card and a brief physical checkup. The tech people would have to get thinking on this, but my idea would have checkpoints along the path where participants would get credit for walking. In certain businesses, they could have treadmills, or Stairmaster stations. The participant would slide his or her card into a machine that would monitor his or her workout. The person would accumulate points based on the exercise he or she put in that day. To crack down on cheaters, at the physical checkup, the participant’s average walking stride would be measured, to ensure that driving to certain checkpoints and inserting the card in order to get points faster wouldn’t work, because the computer would realize there’s no way you could walk six blocks in two minutes. Like I said, the tech people out there would have to work on this, but with businesses everywhere offering reward points for shopping, why not make rewards for exercising? It just might get people off their cans if they know jogging a few hundred miles would get them an Ipod. Sure, it would take them a while, but in the meantime, they are getting exercise. Or maybe if installing checkpoint stations downtown would cost too much, perhaps area gyms (plus the YMCA) could figure out a way to monitor their member’s exercise routines so points could be accrued based on effort.
A stadium? Maybe that’s the next step, behind the Grand Wayne Center and Library. But sports can only carry a city so far. If people want Fort Wayne to look and feel like a cool city, we have to think of the whole picture, not just part of it.