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Exterior masonry and glasswork at the Coliseum. The $4 million renovation project of the 200 level included food courts and remodeled restrooms.

Coliseum upgrades’ ripple effects aid countywide growth

More than a decade after the roof of Memorial Coliseum was raised to make room for skyboxes and more seating, renovations continue to keep northeast Indiana’s largest event venue in first-rate shape. With tax revenue collected there bolstering Capital Improvements Board funds, the Coliseum’s contributions are wisely compounded throughout the community.

The latest round of work includes renovation of the concourse and restrooms and reroofing the Appleseed Room and arena ramps. The $2.3 million project follows a $4 million upgrade to food concession areas and restroom improvements completed last fall.

The improvements are an important step in keeping crowds returning to the Coliseum. The arena drew more than a million visitors last year and is off to a busy start in 2014, having already drawn country superstar Brad Paisley, along with a Disney on Ice show and a stream of weekend expos.

Memorial Coliseum ranked 88th among the top 100 arena venues in a concert industry ranking last year. Venues Today ranked it 10th among international venues seating 10,001 to 15,000.

The Coliseum is a key feature in the region’s mix of public event destinations, along with the Grand Wayne Center, Embassy Theatre and more.

Some state income and sales taxes collected from IPFW, the convention center, Coliseum and the adjacent Holiday Inn go toward the Capital Improvements Board. Most of the board’s funding, however, comes from county food and beverage tax money left over after Coliseum debt payments are made.

The Capital Improvements Board fund has a balance of nearly $8 million now, although not all that is immediately available.

The board is expected to accumulate up to $85 million over the next 17 years, with the money earmarked for large capital projects designed to attract high-wage jobs. One of its first major investments is in the proposed Ash Brokerage project in downtown Fort Wayne, Emerald Skyline. The board will pay $6.5 million over 10 years to cover loan payments for the city’s portion of the project, a 780-space parking garage at the base of the development, an eight-story building on the block bounded by Harrison, Wayne, Webster and Berry streets.

Capital Improvements Board funds also are supporting a Wireless Technology Center at IPFW and a portion of the $500,000 riverfront development study.

City and county officials, along with regional economic development officials, have managed to leverage community assets such as Memorial Coliseum to full advantage. Maintaining and improving one of the city’s treasures is invaluable in supporting development of many more.