Civic officials got an idea just how competitive youth sports can be Tuesday night in a meeting at Citizens Square. As part of a public forum discussing the city's Youth Sports Community Assessment and Market Potential study, about 75 people discussed their urgent needs for new and upgraded facilities during a 90-minute meeting.
Space for youth sports is precious, and every speaker spoke with passion about how big they believe their organizations could become with a little help.
"We have proven that people will come to Fort Wayne and use our facilities, and we'd like to carve out and take on the youth football area,'' Metro Youth Sports president Jim Winters said.
Visit Fort Wayne President Dan O'Connell said the city will host 85 sporting events this year which will attract more than 100,000 people and generate more than $18 million in economic impact over 200 days of usage.
The study, commissioned in December when City Council approved $200,000 to pay for the project, is part of the Legacy Fort Wayne initiative, the $75 million fund created with proceeds from the sale of the City Light utility to Indiana Michigan Power. Mayor Tom Henry chose Aquarius Sports and Entertainment to conduct the study in May. Aquarius Executive Vice President Jeff Goldscher and Brian Connelly, managing partner for Victus Advisers, are in town this week to gather information. They met with approximately 50 people in individual meetings Monday and Tuesday before the public forum.
"We're building these final recommendations... completely objectively from the ground up,'' Connelly said. "We're starting with our research phase, we're moving to the analysis of the market potential and opportunities and from there we are developing our recommendations. What we really want this to be is our road map for how we think Fort Wayne can become a premier youth sports destination.''
Goldscher and Connelly heard from 18 speakers Tuesday night, most of whom are volunteers who have built their organizations through years of volunteer work. There were facility requests for softball, baseball, soccer, cricket, football, rowing, street hockey and swimming.
The consensus was Fort Wayne needs multisurface and multipurpose facilities with plenty of parking that sports can use year-round to train and host regional and national tournaments. Some speakers talked about how facilities their sport could use may also be used by other sports.
City Parks Director Al Moll said the final report will be presented before the end of the year, possibly as early as October. Citizens will soon be able to take part in a survey about the study at FortWayneParks.org.
"I think we are really thankful for all of you who show your passion,'' Moll said. ``Hopefully there will be enough in the pie for everybody.''
Fort Wayne City Councilman Tom Smith said, "I believe the city council and the administration will do what we can, however we can and with whatever money we can to promote youth sports... I'm really looking forward to what the plan is that comes out. I think you're going to find you have a very, very supportive government here in Fort Wayne and Allen County to help youth sports.''