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Dwenger initiates projects for football stadium, performing arts center

January 26, 2019

Bishop Dwenger High School said today it is initiating multi-million-dollar projects to improve the school’s football stadium and to repurpose the vacant theater at Northcrest Shopping Center into a performing arts center.

During the holidays, two donors, who were not identified, “expressed a great interest in improving their school,” the high school said in a statement, and made what the school called major contributions toward the two projects.

“We are confident there will be much interest from our alumni, as well as our current and past families, to ensure the success of these projects over time,” said Katie Burns, the school’s director of development.

Dwenger is near the end of a capital campaign that has made more than $8.4 million in improvements to its campus on East Washington Center Road.

It said it is in the preliminary design stages for a nearly $2 million stadium with 3,000 seats to surround Shields Field, the current artificial-turf practice field and track facility on campus.

In the longer term, the school hopes to put up to 5 million into an overhaul of the former Holiday 6 Theatres, about a mile south of the campus at 931 Coliseum Blvd. E., off North Clinton Street.

If plans are approved by the city of Fort Wayne and the Fort Wayne-South Bend Roman Catholic Diocese, and the necessary funding is in place, the school said it hopes to have the stadium open early next fall. It said the theater would be a longer-term project, perhaps completed in phases.

Besides home football games, the school would be able to host boys and girls soccer games, rugby and lacrosse in the stadium, athletic director John Bennett said in the statement. He said the school’s marching band and color guard would also benefit from the facility.

The stadium would have 2,500 seats on the home side closest to the school and 500 seats on the visitors’ side of the field, the school said. It would include a new entrance, ticket booth, updated fencing, a larger press box, a new concessions area, larger bathrooms and possibly two team rooms.

The school acknowledged research and planning for the theater project trails the stadium project, and it is likely the stadium will be completed in advance of the performing arts center. It said it is essential to ensure that the dreams for the theater building are attainable, both from structural and financial perspectives.

“If the building can be transformed to fulfill our needs at a cost lower than starting from the ground up, we will continue to move forward,” Principal Jason Schiffli said in the statement.

Dwenger does not have a true auditorium, and has hosted its band, choral and theater productions in its gymnasium.

Initial thoughts and plans call for one side of the theater to become an auditorium to seat 300 to 400 people. The other side would become a multi-purpose facility that could be used for activities, practices and special events. A reception-gathering space would be available between the two.

“Even with a campus of our size, we are perpetually running out of space to meet, practice and perform,” said Christy Maloney, music department chair, in the statement. “A space like this would be spectacular for our musical and theatrical students and benefit the school as a whole.”

Holiday 6 Theatres closed in 2005. A nearby building called Holiday 1 and 2 closed in 2000 and was subsequently demolished.

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