Fort Wayne once housed an NBA team.
Fort Wayne, Indiana is losing another professional basketball franchise as the National Basketball Association’s Indiana Pacers’ G League team is moving from Fort Wayne to Indianapolis for the 2023-24 season and then to Noblesville, Indiana in 2024. Noblesville is building a 3,400-seat arena. The city of Noblesville will throw in $36.5 million for arena funding and the Pacers’ parent company, Pacers Sports & Entertainment, will pony up $5 million over a 10-year period to help pay for the project. Noblesville is located in Hamilton County, Indiana which is trying to become a minor league sports hub. The ECHL’s Indy Fuel is moving into an arena in Fishers. Additionally, Andretti Global, the parent company of Andretti Autosport, is moving its global racing and technology headquarters to Fishers.
Fort Wayne’s pro basketball history started in 1941 when team owner Fred Zollner joined the National Basketball League. Zollner, who had money, jumped to the Basketball Association of America in 1948. Zollner worked on a merger of the NBL and BAA in 1949 and his Pistons franchise was a charter NBA member. The team remained in Fort Wayne until 1957 when Zollner moved the business to Detroit. In the mid-1950s, small city teams like the Fort Wayne Pistons could not compete financially with New York or Boston, and various small city NBA owners began looking to go to larger cities. “We had gone as far as we could with the team at Fort Wayne,” Zollner said in 1957, “I wanted to get into a major league city. Detroit is an excellent sports center. It has major league teams in every other sport and I felt sure it would go for big-time basketball.” Fort Wayne has now lost two minor league basketball teams since Zollner left the city in 1957.
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