Allen County War Memorial Coliseum – Fort Wayne Mad Ants
Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00
Allen County War Memorial Coliseum 4000 Parnell Ave Fort Wayne, IN 46805
Allen County War Memorial Coliseum website
Year Opened: 1952
Don’t Get Mad at These Ants
Before the arrival of the Ft. Wayne Mad Ants in 2007, its home venue, the Allen County Memorial War Coliseum had a history with the National Basketball Association dating back to when the building opened in 1952. When the arena debuted, it held 13,000 for the Ft. Wayne Pistons who would operate in the building for five seasons before relocating to Detroit, Michigan in 1957.
The Pistons were founded in Ft. Wayne in 1941 by Fred Zollner who owned the Zollner Corporation, a foundry that manufactured pistons primarily for cars, trucks, and locomotive engines. The club were champions of the National Basketball League in 1944 and 1945 and captured three straight World Championships in 1944, 1945, and 1946. The Pistons joined the Basketball Association of America in 1948 before the league merged with the NBL and changed its name to the NBA in 1949.
The Pistons were a popular draw in Ft. Wayne and were able to host the NBA All-Star Game in 1953 to a crowd of 10,000 plus. The team would qualify for the playoffs every season at the building and appeared in two NBA Finals in 1955 and 1956. However, the league was outgrowing its smaller markets and Zollner looked to a bigger market for his basketball club and he didn’t have to look too far to Detroit, only 162 miles northeast of Ft. Wayne.
In 2007, the Mad Ants debuted at the building and have put up quite a bit of success of their earning two trips to the NBA G League Finals in 2014 and 2015 and winning it all during its first trip. They get their name from the city’s and the fort’s namesake General “Mad” Anthony Wayne. The Ants became affiliated with the Pacers before the 2017-2018 season and have developed some of the entertainment aspects from the parent club in Indianapolis.
Food & Beverage 3
A few regular concession stands are closed for G League games, but the food court offering pizza slices and Chinese food is open for business on the upper concourse level that offers something a little different at your minor league sports venue.
Pizza slices sell for $5.50 or a whole pie for $28, plus tempting steak hoagies and submarinos for $7.75, and fried ravioli for $6. It should be mentioned that the slices are well-portioned and fresh from the oven.
Teriyaki bowls cost $7.50 for a regular and $9.50 for a large order. Patrons can pick their protein, vegetables, toppings, and sauces and watch while they are created right in front of them. Other take-out options include sesame beef, General Tso chicken, and vegetable lo mein for around $6.50 a dish. On the lower concourse outside of the seating bowl, the basic options of hot dogs, nachos, and soda pop are available.
The Mad Ants advertise themselves as the highest level of sports entertainment in the city; this is technically true and their brand of entertainment is definitely on par with its minor league counterparts Komets and TinCaps. The club does an admirable job of combining high-level basketball and keeping fans entertained throughout the game.
The arena is shrunk considerably in comparison to a hockey game. Curtains are draped over the upper 600 level of the building and portions of the 200 level behind each basket to give a more intimate feeling for the game. This allows everyone to be close to the action on the court and within access to everything that takes place beyond the game.
A children’s play area is located behind one of the baskets that cost $5 for kids to have a little fun and test their athletic skills. The Mad Ants Drummers are situated adjacent to the kids’ zone which provides a lot of noise and ambiance during the game. Behind the opposite basket is the Ant Colony seating where fans can enjoy all-inclusive food and beverage for $15 for groups of up to 100 people.
The team employs the Mad Antz Dancerz who perform before the game and during breaks in the action. The official Mad Ant mascot also does his share of entertaining himself. He waves the team flag during opening ceremonies, shakes the hands of fans sitting in the Larry Bird Seats, and roams the stands.
The Coliseum is located near an abundance of chain restaurants, retail outlets, and berries lodging options. Depending on who you’re with a familiar restaurant might be just what you need for the night. Or you can drive towards town and check out a couple of classic venues – they have a history of over a hundred and fifty years.
There are some great local area institutions both old and new that should be previewed when in town. First, Coney Island Ft. Wayne has been serving its unique chili soup and Coca-Cola from 8-ounce bottles for over 100 years. The interior has not changed that much since its opening in 1914 and the place is quite popular among the populace. Coneys are $1.50 and it now takes credit cards with a $5 minimum.
Powers Burgers is a local institution and its decor has not changed at all in over 82 years it’s been in business. Their sliders come with grilled heavy onions and cost under $1. The small location only takes cash and has limited space but it’s worth a visit to any lover of the hamburger.
A few new places that are vastly becoming popular are The Yummi Bunni and Junk Ditch Brewing Company. The Yummi Bunni serves homemade ice cream between two glazed donuts and the lines have been long since the place opened in November 2016. Junk Ditch Brewing Company opened in the town in 2015 and has a very impressive menu lineup along with its craft beer.
The Ants draw nice crowds to games regularly at the Coliseum. They attract respectable crowds in a basketball-savvy state where many levels of the game are celebrated; their knowledge of the game should never be in question.
The 600-level concourse is closed off to customers and only the 200-level concourse is operational at basketball games. There are a series of ramps that provide access to different parts of the building. Almost all of the seats are near the court and close to the action.
The seating arrangement on the court is among the best pricing options for pro or college basketball in the state. There is also the opportunity to watch a Pacers player suit up on assignment with the Mad Ants or even a former college or local high school star
The Coliseum has gone through multiple renovations this century that has modernized it for greater access for all guests and patrons. These new features include escalators and elevators and provide access for fans to multiple areas of the arena. There is parking for 5,000 cars in the lot and it’s only a 1.5 half-mile drive from the I-69 exit or a 4-mile drive to downtown Ft. Wayne.
Return on Investment 3
The price of a single-game ticket is $15 or $25 at the box office, parking is $5 per car, and the food options are varied and reasonably priced. The $15 price point is not a bad deal with how close you are to the action on the court and entertainment.
The Mad Ants earn a point for the children’s play area behind the main court that provides kids with their athletic skills and has some fun during stoppage time in the game.
The Mad Ant mascot earns a second point for his active pace entertaining fans during the game.
The third point is for the Mad Antz Drummers that bang it out throughout the game, similar to what takes place at Indiana Fever games. A nice way to connect the two clubs in spirit and atmosphere.
The Mad Ants are doing an incredible job of providing both basketball and entertainment at all home games at the Coliseum. The fans are up close and personal from their seats to the play on the court. The drum section is loud, the kids are entertained, and the basketball takes center stage. It is a fun way to enjoy an evening or afternoon with friends or family.
Follow all of Marc’s stadium journeys on Twitter @ballparkhunterand his YouTube channel. Email at Marc.Viquez@stadiumjourney.com