Shields Field - Fort Wayne FC
Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
Shields Field 1300 East Washington Center Rd Fort Wayne, IN 46825
Year Opened: 1963 Capacity: 3,200
Protecting the Fort and Lower Level Soccer
Ft. Wayne FC operates in the Great Lakes Division of USL League Two, the fourth tier of the American Soccer Pyramid. The club plays its home matches at Shields Field at Bishop Dwenger High School. The stadium has a capacity of 3,200 spectators for home matches.
The club was founded by a group of eight local businessmen looking to provide a stepping stone for young, talented players in the area. FWFC was to have begun operations in 2020 but was delayed a season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The club debuted in front of 2,700 people for its first match and later drew over 3,400 for an international friendly against Chivas U20.
The organization hopes to break ground on its own 7,500 soccer-specific stadium and have it operating by 2024. It will also include the plan to jump up the USL League One. The eight-man ownership group includes local soccer icon DaMarcus Beasley who played a 20-year professional career in the US and internationally and made 126 appearances for the US Men’s National Team.
Food & Beverage 3
All concession items require fans to purchase tickets at a dollar each. The stadium will not accept either cash or credit cards. The decision was to have lines and services move more efficiently at matches. There are two areas for beverages sales at the stadium, and there is more than enough staff on hand to make sure that your order is expedited efficiently and quickly. Fans do not have to wait long in lines for food and beverages.
Items at the game include brats, hot dogs, and kettle chips from 2 to 5 tickets. Local 800 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza offers slices that cost 5 tickets. Beer options include Bud, Bud Light, Modelo Especial, and Bud Light Seltzer for 5 or 6 tickets. Landing Beer Company items are 7 tickets, and wines are 5 tickets. Pepsi products cost 3 tickets for bottled sodas and water.
There is quite an impressive atmosphere for this level of soccer, and nice to see such an exuberant amount of people at the game. When attracting well over 1,000 people to a fourth division soccer match, it’s hard not to notice everything from the cheering, staff interaction, and the little things that sometimes get overlooked at this level in other cities.
The high school football field is spruced up nicely for matches, and much of the school’s logos and colors have been replaced with FWFC banners and signage. You never feel that the club is relegated to second-class citizens at the venue, which features a nice entrance into the main grandstand. The club’s colors and the crest are everywhere from flags, merchandise tents, banners on the press box, and international and homemade flags hanging over the railing.
The supporters’ group, Three Rivers Regiment, can be found cheering on the team, waving flags, and banging the posts onto the aluminum bleachers. A small group plays the drums throughout the game and lets off a little smoke after a home goal.
Players are introduced through an inflatable tunnel with music as they make their way to the center field. They are accompanied by local area youth soccer players and remain there until after the National Anthem has concluded. The crowd waits for kickoff, and the next 45 minutes are focused on the action on the field.
The stadium is 1.6 miles north of the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, and depending on when you are in town, can also enjoy either a Ft. Wayne Komets hockey or Ft. Wayne Mad Ants basketball game. The stadium is also near two main intersections and close to interstate exits.
Shield Field is near an abundance of chain restaurants, retail outlets, and berries lodging options. You could want almost everything within a couple of miles from the building, including coney dogs, barbecue, craft beer, and Tim Horton’s coffee. Mister Coney has been a mainstay for over 50 years and offers their take on the coney dog that is a bit meatier in texture than what you would find downtown.
Mission BBQ is a Maryland-based chain but provides an array of smoked meats and 8 varieties of barbecue, with portions of their proceeds going back to first responders. 2Tom’s Brewing Company has a range of beers and offers a laid-back atmosphere perfect for games of all ages.
Glenbrook Square Mall is one of the largest in the area and is surrounded by familiar chain restaurants and shops. Tim Horton’s has a location here featuring its coffee that is widely consumed up north in Canada. You can also make a trip downtown for a Ft. Wayne TinCaps game at Parkview Field during the summer months.
Soccer fans have been quite loyal to the club this season. The attendance figures for regular-season matches are near or well over 1,000 people a game. A friendly against Chivas U20 attracted 3,600 people during its inaugural season. Even on a rainy and overcast day, an impressive crowd was out to support the club at its last home game of the season.
The stadium is at the corner of East Washington Center Road and North Clinton Street. The field is accessible and a little over a mile from Exit 312 (Coldwater Road) off of I-69. There is plenty of parking for matches that include police assistance exiting after the game.
Return on Investment 3
The cost of a ticket to a match is $10 a person and $5 for children. There is a $5 charge for cars, something uncommon at this level of soccer. Food prices cost anywhere between $2 to $5, and alcoholic drinks will set you back anywhere from $5 to $7–buckets of beer are 20 tickets.
There is a selection of shirts and jerseys; t-shirts cost $19.99, and home and away jerseys are $56.99. All game day programs are free, and fans receive a free scarf while supplies last upon entering the stadium.
The club earns a point for its game-day atmosphere. A large group of volunteers makes sure the fan experience runs smoothly from fast lines at the concession stands, customer service questions, and proper setup for matches. A second point for a nice collection of team merchandise that is not that expensive. A final point for creating a vibrant atmosphere for lower-division soccer in the United States.
I did not know what to expect from a Ft. Wayne FC match, but I was pleasantly surprised by the crowd size, game-day operations, and professionalism of the club. Soccer at this level is a mix of bad and I have had my share of experiences the past 25 plus years; it is usually not operated like this and at times is below a middle school football game. For that, it made a fan out of me and an experience I truly treasured. I think we will be seeing some great things from this club in the coming years.