Turnstone, Sweetwater appeal to city council

Members of the women’s goalball team (from front to back) Amanda Dennis, Ali Lawson and Lisa Czechowski participate in a demonstration for the Fort Wayne Central Lions Club. FILE PHOTO

Lisa Esquivel Long

FORT WAYNE — An event that will turn Fort Wayne’s downtown into an Olympic Village next summer will boost the local economy by an estimated $1.2 to $1.5 million, City Council members learned Tuesday evening.

Turnstone, in partnership with Visit Fort Wayne and the International Blind Sports Federation, will host the 2019 IBSA Goalball & Judo International Qualifier June 28-July 10, 2019. The best athletes will move on to the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. The federation will also hold its general assembly here during the event.

Dan O’Connell, president/CEO of Visit Fort Wayne, told the councilmembers during their committee session that the qualifier is expected to be the largest international event to come to Fort Wayne in terms of number of countries involved. Athletes will be coming from 40 countries for about two weeks to use three facilities: the Grand Wayne Convention Center, Indiana Tech and Turnstone Center for Children and Adults with Disabilities.

Amanda Dennis, a three-time Paralympian and member of Team USA in goalball, told councilmembers, “I uprooted by life and moved from Atlanta to compete in Fort Wayne, where we train every day.”

In May, Turnstone was designated a Paralympic site and is home to the internationally ranked 2018 U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Goalball teams.

The competition will bring Fort Wayne a large amount of international media coverage, O’Connell said.

Sweetwater gets, gives good news
Also Tuesday night, council members approved a $12 million tax break to Sweetwater, which plans to invest $82 million into a project to build a 350,000-square-foot warehouse and a 35,000-square-foot conference center. Part of the land is in unincorporated Allen County. Allen County Council previously approved its portion of the abatement.

Sweetwater plans to add 1,009 more jobs with a payroll of $56 million by the end of 2022.

“A long time ago it was hard to bring people to Fort Wayne,” Chuck Surack, founder and president of Sweetwater, said.

However, a lack of direct flights from Fort Wayne International Airport continues to be a problem for workers who want to return to their hometowns to see family, he said. About 60 percent of his employees have relocated to the Fort Wayne area.

Surack estimated that the company is 1 ½-2 years from becoming a billion-dollar company.

Post-Thanksgiving shoppers spent $20 million with Sweetwater from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, he said.

This story originally appeared in our sister publication, Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly.