Fort Wayne minor-league baseball fans can expect more than just a good game and tasty junk food next season.
Fitness activities, blood drives, cholesterol and blood screenings, and healthier menu choices will be just a few of the features when Parkview Field opens next year in Harrison Square. The city's public/private $125 million downtown revitalization project at Jefferson Boulevard and Harrison Street also includes condominiums, a hotel, retail space and a parking garage.
Hardball Capital, the Atlanta-based owner of the soon-to-be-renamed Wizards, announced Thursday that Parkview Health has bought naming rights to the stadium for $3 million over 10 years. Half of that money will go to the city, which is responsible for continued maintenance and upkeep of the $30 million stadium, $25 million of which the city is covering.
For the past 16 years, the Wizards played at the county-owned Memorial Stadium, 1616 Coliseum Blvd. E. The team's final home game there was Aug. 28.
Memorial Stadium is scheduled to be demolished July 1, 2009, at a cost of $2 million, a decision that hasn't pleased residents who wonder why a 16-year-old facility should be replaced and why the city is spending tens of millions of dollars on its portion of Harrison Square. But its core of staunch defenders persevered, and the plan passed City Council 6-3.
Hardball Executive Officer Jason Freier on Thursday praised Parkview's commitment to Harrison Square and Fort Wayne, crediting the company, in large part, for why he expects the stadium to be a source of pride for the community.
“In 10 years, (the stadium) will still look fabulous,” Freier said. “Parkview is committed to this and to the community.”
Opening Day is scheduled for April 16. The new name for the team, a Class A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, will be selected from the 2,900 suggestions sent in by fans and announced by the end of October, Freier said. While spreading name recognition for Parkview's hospitals and clinics is never a bad thing, Parkview Health President and CEO Mike Packnett said the opportunity to spread health awareness and provide more services got his company behind the idea of buying the naming rights.
“We're really focused on the aspect of health in this park. … And it's a very great fit for us from a marketing standpoint,” Packnett said. “This is a great way for us to interact with 400,000 people (through stadium attendance) a year.”
Parkview Health board chairman Chuck Schrimper said it is the board's responsibility as a nonprofit organization to find new ways to contribute to the community. The idea of promoting health and fitness to hundreds of thousands of baseball fans while keeping them entertained made the decision an easy one.
Mayor Tom Henry also appeared at a news conference Thursday afternoon at the stadium for the announcement. Standing where home plate will be, he said he was “thrilled” to learn of Parkview Health's commitment to Harrison Square.
“They're just a tremendous organization,” said Henry, whose predecessor, Graham Richard, was the driving force behind Harrison Square. “They've always been very ‘pro-Fort Wayne.'”
Harrison Square project manager Steve Brody said $230,000 a year from a long-term capital improvement fund created by the city must be used for upkeep on the stadium. With $150,000 a year coming from Parkview, the balance will come from several organizations that sought to buy the naming rights but didn't get the nod, he said. He declined to name them, but Freier said many will likely have some sort of presence in the stadium by Opening Day.