University makes case for Regional Cities funding

FORT WAYNE — Trine University officials made their case Tuesday for $3.8 million in grant funding toward construction of the new Thunder Ice Area and MTI Center.

Backed by Angola Mayor Richard Hickman and Dave Martin, city council member, as well as Trine trustees Dr. Rick L. James, Metal Technologies Inc. chairman; Keith Busse, Steel Dynamics Inc. chairman; Tim Haffner, Faegre Baker Daniels partner; Ian Rolland, retired Lincoln National Corp. chairman; Jack Shaw, retired president and CEO of Hughes Electronics; and Joe Weaver, M.D.; president Earl D. Brooks II, Ph.D., and senior vice president Michael Bock presented the university’s request at the meeting of the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority.

Hickman, who spoke to the RDA in support of the project, was quoted in the News-Sentinel as saying the project will bring the city and downtown community closer together, and that it will be "humongous" for the city of Angola. The city had agreed at the April 18 Common Council meeting to support Trine's application for the funding and to provide in-kind support for the project.

Also in attendance to support the project were State Rep. Dennis Zent and Parkview Health officials Rick Henvey, chief operating officer; and Tommy Schoegler, director of Parkview Sports Medicine.

The project also has received support from the Angola Area Chamber of Commerce, Steuben County, Steuben County YMCA, Steuben County Economic Development Corporation, Steuben County Community Foundation, Steuben County Visitors and Convention Bureau and State Sen. Dennis Kruse.

The RDA will make grants from $42 million in funding it will receive as one of three winners in last year’s Indiana Economic Development Corp.’s Regional Cities Initiative. The money will be awarded to projects in an 11-county area that the authority determines will improve the area’s quality of life and have the potential to boost its population.

In the presentation, Trine officials noted the new buildings will improve the quality of place and quality of life for Steuben County and northeast Indiana. The MTI Center will seat 3,000 for concerts and community events as well as Trine men’s and women’s basketball games, and will include a fitness center and six-lane bowling alley. The ice arena will seat 1,000 and will be available for high school and community youth leagues as well as Trine’s new hockey teams.

The university is expecting the new buildings to bring thousands of visitors, families and guests to the region.

The project will create at least 15 new jobs, and construction contracts will be awarded within the region. With Trine’s location near downtown Angola, the buildings also will provide a catalyst to the city’s overall downtown redevelopment and improvement of Angola’s immediate and corridor area.

The funding requested from the RDA is 20 percent of the project’s estimated $18.9 million cost. The university already has $12.5 million pledged toward the project in private donations, and is receiving $1.4 million in gifts-in-kind — including streets, rights-of-way, sidewalks and storm drainage — from the city of Angola.

RDA members voted to take more time to examine the project and will announce a decision on Trine’s request at a future meeting. The group’s next meeting is June 21.

Trine University will award the contract for construction of the Thunder Ice Arena on Monday, with construction beginning by June 1 and completion by June 1, 2017. The university’s NCAA Division III hockey teams will take to the ice in fall 2017.

The contract for the MTI Center will be awarded in December, with construction scheduled to begin in March 2017 and completion by August 2018.