Cracker Barrel/IMAX instead of The Harrison?

Fort Wayne City Council President Tom Smith has an article in today’s News-Sentinel suggesting a Cracker Barrel be built in place of The Harrison.  The Harrison’s construction has been reportedly delayed by the current financial crisis.  When built, it is envisioned to have a first floor containing retail shops and restaurants with the upper floors containing luxury condominiums.

Attractions needed to complement stadium

Parkview Field is first-class. The huge scoreboard mounted on the new parking garage is stunning. And, thankfully, after some joking and head-scratching over our team’s new name, we’re getting to like our TinCaps.

This season’s great start is drawing new people downtown to enjoy baseball. A lot of those coming to the ballpark are kids. Kids coming downtown with Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, will need family places to go to before and after the games, as well as all year round.

Since baseball is the main attraction of Harrison Square, let’s focus on other development that will appeal to family tastes and budgets. Presently, most of our downtown entertainment venues cater to adults.

Building high-end condos right next to the stadium, though well-intended, may no longer be the best choice. Perhaps, after the housing market recovers, building less expensive condos, lofts and apartments on the Baker Street portion of the Harrison Square development area would be a more appealing fit.

Instead, why not build a family-style restaurant on the condo corner? A friendly, familiar place that serves comfort food 24 hours a day, like a Cracker Barrel. People would go there whether it’s a game day or not. Night owls and late-shift workers would find it a popular haven.

I hope, like everyone else, the financing and construction for the Marriott Courtyard hotel is at hand. But if that doesn’t happen, consider building the IMAX theater that County Recorder John McGauley recently called for in the downtown area. IMAX theaters are great family entertainment and magnets for visitors.

While these ideas are very different from the original concept for Harrison Square, they may be what the project needs to achieve its goal for downtown revitalization. “Build it and they will come” worked in the movies. For that line to hold true for Harrison Square, it will take more than filling seats at the TinCaps’ 70 home games.

Harrison Square is the most expensive community venture in our history. Parkview Field is very impressive and will draw people in. Though I voted against the project, now, given all the money and prestige riding on its success, we need to find proven attractions that will complement the ballpark to draw people in all year long.Â

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9 COMMENTS

  1. I do not believe an IMAX will fit in the area do to the size necessary.

    And a “cracker barrel” isn’t really the “hip” feel we are going for…is it?

    • Actually with all this talk, why not get the Hall’s involved and let them come up with a great ballpark-themed restaurant? I think they should be the first choice – or someone else that is local, say for instance Blane Stuckey and the Mad Anthony people? I really hope that whatever ends up here it is inspired and operated by LOCAL institutions. That’s the way it should be.

  2. I heard Greg Leatherman say a Cracker Barrel is just as nice as a Ruth’s Chris. No, he said a Renaissance is just as nice as a Marriot. And a Courtyard is just as nice as a Renaissance. And a 20 million dollar Courtyard is just as nice as a 35 million dollar Courtyard.

    He is right that the baseball stadium is about entertaining pre-teen children. That’s why it was stupid to put it downtown to begin with. But by the time the game’s over, Mom and Dad are taking the kids home.

  3. Again, my concern is what is happening downtown the six other months of the year when there isn’t baseball. Maybe build something that stands alone and doesn’t depend on another entity to be successful. We need to establish things downtown that won’t have a domino effect if one thing eventually loses popularity or closes. The baseball stadium is built and seems to be popular. Great. Let’s figure out what else we can do downtown and try to keep in mind that the winters are harsh. I don’t think I would climb in my car when it’s 20 degrees to head downtown to hang out with a bunch of old people (no offense to anyone) and screaming babies, just to get a chicken and dumplings fix. I live down the street from the Cracker Barrel on Washington Center and still don’t like going there mostly because of the herded in family vibe (something about a room full of 100 people all two feet away from each other eating beans creeps me out).

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