Last week, I threw out a request to find a few players to answer questions that you, loyal RU readers, have. Well, Coleman Collins, who played for Fort Wayne last season and is currently in France hang, took some time off from his busy schedule (he's also writing over at TrueHoop) to answer a question he pulled from the comments from webby356. If you're not familiar with Coleman, he wrote his own introduction, albeit briefly, over at Truehoop as well.
I'm not sure what Coleman's summer plans are, but I'm sure if he's bored, Fort Wayne tour guide is a possible summer job - or be a guest on the Fort Wayne office staff podcast. I think his new job should be writing for the D-League, as Wednesday they tweeted about getting to know Fort Wayne, though the info was a bit outdated (Jaren Jackson in midst of first season as head coach? Really?) Without further ado, I turn it over to Mr. Collins himself.
How would you compare your stay in Fort Wayne to the others you have had in your short career?
Fort Wayne for me was a mixed bag, lots of good and bad, mostly good. I can't say I enjoyed the city so much, and that was definitely an adjustment for me. It's a city of 250,000 people, but they all seem to stay in the house for the most part. Except for the basketball games! That was the best part about Fort Wayne - the fan support was incredible, and I think that's as much testament to the amazing energy of the Mad Ant fans as it is to the efforts of the management. This was the best-run organization I've been a part of, despite the obvious limitations (budget, salaries, travel to obscure places) that arise in the Development League. Every game was well-promoted. Every player participated in numerous community activities, all of which were well-organized and worthwhile. I can't over-emphasize how important that is - there's a very fragile relationship between a minor-league team and a small town, and other teams would do well to follow the example they're setting in the Ant Hill. We had, by any measure, a middling season, but led the league in attendance. That speaks volumes about a lot of people.
Now for the bad? For brevity's sake, a list of things that Fort Wayne needs (probably pipe dreams, but oh well):
1. BETTER WEATHER! (not possible, obviously)
2. Underground power lines: one or two fallen limbs knocked the power out in my house for 3 days.
3. Better drainage system: every time it snowed, the snow would pile up in huge amounts. Then it would melt and there would be huge pools of water sitting all over the road. Then of course the road ends up having all these holes in it from the stress. After I noticed this, I started actively looking for drains and sewers, and I pretty much never saw them. Like one a mile. I asked someone about it, and they said that the water sat like that because the soil in the area is a hard, dense, clay, hence: no drainage. This seems like something they should overcompensate for with the drainage.
4. An overhead walkway system like the one they have in Des Moines would completely revitalize the downtown area, especially during the winter. That skywalk made our road games against the Energy a lot more welcoming than they would have been; otherwise we would have wanted to just stay in and order pizza.
5. Why is it that the nicest mall in Fort Wayne is an outdoor one? Didn't they realize that it's freezing cold 6 months out of the year? Before this year I'd only seen outdoor malls in places like Miami and markets near the Mediterranean. How did that possibly get approved? It's pretty much completely unusable for half the year, and it's a shame, because it's a much nicer mall than the other one.
6. Better support for local business! FW has a bunch of local businesses but it seems like they get crowded out by all the chain establishments around. A city like FW has to make a concerted effort to keep them alive, because there's no foot traffic to speak of. No pedestrians because the city's so spread out, and then it's hard to get people to stumble across a place because it's so cold outside. When it's cold outside, you hop in your car and drive directly to the place you need to be and then you go back. You want to leave for as little time as possible, and you go to the place you know or that you saw a commercial for last night. Local businesses can't advertise like that; it's a small tragedy.
7. A local website or newspaper that lets you see all the local events and happenings easily and efficiently; there's so going on that people aren't aware of. I can think of at least ten times that I'd told someone in Fort Wayne about something that was going on around town, and they either a)had never heard of the place, b)had never even heard of the street. There are people that have lived in FW their whole lives but haven't gone anywhere new in years. That needs to change. The more the local places/events are supported and promoted, the better attended they will be, the more fun they will be, etcetera, etcetera.
These are all local places/things that are awesome:
1. Henry's Restaurant: I ate here about twice a week. After the first time I went in, the owner knew my name and addressed me by it. All of the waitresses did, too. They made every effort to get me exactly what I wanted all the time. Great food, good variety, good prices.
2. Club Soda: great place to have a drink - they take pride in how they tend bar and it shows. One of the nicest restaurants in town. Nice place to eat and the prix fixe menu is super-reasonable (lunchtime prices doubly so), especially in light of the decor.
3. Cinema Center: Fort Wayne's only independent film theater. They play a lot of great movies and also have a bunch of events throughout the year. Their Oscar-themed party was a lot of fun.
4. Munchie's: incredible sandwich selection, good place to grab a bite to eat.
5. Casa Mare: this is technically a chain, but at least it's a local one. Ate here before every game. Solid, affordable, cool staff.
6. Bill's City Grill: Live music almost every night of the week and good food until 3. Great place for someone like myself that doesn't go to sleep until late.
I'm almost certainly forgetting something, but not maliciously. Everything else to do with Fort Wayne has to do with nationally-owned conglomerates; they don't need any help from me.
Finally, there was a great fundraiser held by the Fort Wayne Center For Learning - Coach Jackson, myself, a member of the staff and one of the dancers participated by going against other local businesses in a quiz show to raise money and awareness. They do good things there.