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Riverfront naming rights selling out fast

February 11, 2017 GMT

If you want your name on a prime piece of Riverfront real estate, open your bank account and put on your running shoes.

Fort Wayne park officials this week said naming opportunities for attractions in the proposed park along the downtown banks of the St. Marys River are going fast.

Mark Becker, the parks department’s deputy director for Riverfront development, said at a meeting Thursday of the Board of Park Commissioners that naming rights for four of the six attractions on the south bank have already been claimed.

Interest has been shown in the other two, although no deals have been struck, he said.

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The naming opportunities are one way parks officials plan to make up the private donations slice of the funding pie for the approximately $26 million park.

Compass Pavilion, a futuristic-looking performance venue with a swooping roof line, has been funded with $1.5 million from the Fort Wayne Parks Foundation, Becker told the board, while a band shell has received a $200,000 donation from local music gear giant Sweetwater Sound.

The Downtown Rotary Club has pitched in $200,000 for a fountain-like water feature, and Dick Wakefield and the Wakefield Foundation have chipped in $200,000 for an entrance sculpture.

Remaining, but with prospects, are the tentatively named Promenade Plaza and Harrison Street Lawn, Becker said. Together, those naming rights would result in about $405,000, he said.

Becker said major donors could contribute at four levels – Vision, for those providing either the entire cost of an attraction or $500,000; Champion, for donations between $150,000 and $499,000; Advocate, for donations between $50,000 and $150,000 and Supporter, for donations below $50,000.

Donors would be recognized by signage on the features and directional signs, but corporate logos and color schemes won’t be allowed, Becker said.

Those with a slimmer wallet will be sought beginning next month, when a community campaign kicks off for individuals, families, companies and groups willing to give up to $5,000.

How those people will be recognized has not been decided, he said, but one suggestion is to place their names on step-like seating facing the riverbank that would be used during events.

More pieces of Fort Wayne’s Riverfront project fell into place this week. On Wednesday, officials announced they had reached a court settlement with hold-out property owners on the south side of the St. Marys River.

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At Thursday’s meeting, those in charge of the project detailed how money is being raised and spent.

The next big piece is a presentation Tuesday before the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority to request $5.27 million in Regional Cities funding, said Al Moll, parks department superintendent.

Moll said the settlement of the suit shows the regional development authority legally has the land it needs to go forward.

The Fort Wayne-Allen County Capital Improvement Board is providing $3 million toward the project, Moll said. The city’s Legacy Fund has pledged $12.9 million, with about $10 million contingent on Regional Cities’ approval, he said.

The rest comes from private donations.

Expenses for the project are $20 million for park construction, $1 million for site preparation, $2.5 million for property acquisition, $2 million for design and $300,000 for miscellaneous expenses, Moll said.

“The only unknown is environmental mitigation costs. Engineers need to get in the ground and see what they find,” Moll said. “Face it, there is going to be something.”

Steve McDaniel, the parks department’s deputy director of asset management, outlined construction plans. Set-up is planned to start in June on the north side of the St. Marys, with construction beginning in July.

By Aug. 1, the south bank will be ready for removal of buildings and existing parking lots in the acquired areas, McDaniel said.

Some of the work will require closing the foot of Harrison Street for some time this summer, he said.

Construction also will be coordinated with water and sewer work, including some for the giant sewer separation tunnel, relocation of utility lines and events, including the Three Rivers Festival and boating and fishing activities, McDaniel added.

The department is “trying to be a good neighbor with everyone else operating on or near the river,” McDaniel said.

rsalter@jg.net