In a strange series of events, I learned last night that the University of Dayton is going to be a minority owner in a the Indiana Fever, which will be leaving Indianapolis and will play at UD Arena. UD’s investment will be the addition of air conditioning and a new parking garage, with first-floor retail space just West of the arena. Simon Properties will manage the garage and retail, and construction, in exchange for a dollar a year lease on the land. A similar tax abatement on the property as what GE aviation got will be fast-tracked through city hall.
The reason for the move? The “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” which was just passed in Indiana last week and the UD Women’s program recent run in the NCAA Tournament, coupled with the crowds of the first Four tournament.
While the Fever have been routinely drawing an average of 8,000 to 9,000 fans in Indy- since Bankers Life Fieldhouse holds 18,165, they felt a move to the more right sized University of Dayton arena (capacity 13,435) would increase the value of the ticket and provide a better game time fan experience- there being nothing worse than a half-empty arena.
In another potentially huge win for Dayton, there has also been talk of the NCAA moving its corporate HQ to Dayton according to high level sources, although the offices may be at Austin Landing.
There has been no indication that the Fever will change its name, but there is the possibility that both current UD Stars Andrea Hoover and Ally Malott are potential draft choices giving current UD fans like this writer the potential to continue following these two amazing talents as they go pro- in the same arena that they played their college career.
University of Dayton President Dan Curran has shown a willingness to enter UD into other business deals like the purchase of the Dayton Marriott, which was a key part of luring the WNBA team to Dayton. University of Dayton housing will also be provided to team players, since the WNBA season mostly coincides with the reduced summer student population- it’s described as a win-win for the university. The Fever will rely heavily on UD students in the Exercise Science program, and also partner with Wright State with its athletic training program. UD marketing majors will also have opportunities in the Fever marketing department.
UD has had the air conditioning plans in the works for several years, the system will be geothermal, and cost estimates ran between $7 and $10 million.
Herb Simon, majority owner of the Fever, was impressed with the attendance at the First Four games over the last few years, realizing that Dayton fans will come out to watch teams that have no-connection to Dayton, although he too, was surprised when Dayton got to play on its home court.
The move will be for the 2016 season, with tickets to go on sale on April First 2016.