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The city could host events for athletes preparing for the Paralympic Games.

AWS: Downtown arena would focus on disabilities

FORT WAYNE – A local non-profit is paying a Utah-based consulting firm $25,000 to study the feasibility of building a multi-use downtown arena with a special purpose, officials announced today.

The proposed mid-sized sports facility’s mission would be inclusion for people with intellectual and physical disabilities.

Programs would allow them to participate in sports such as wheelchair basketball, wheelchair soccer and sled hockey.

The arena also would be designed to make it easier for families to attend events with members who are in wheelchairs or have other needs, said Patti Hayes, chairwoman of the AWS Foundation.

The foundation supports organizations and programs that help children and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities “live as independently as possible, be included in the community and function at their highest potential.”

Since 2009, AWS Foundation has awarded almost $3 million in grants. But, Hayes said, board members have been considering a large-scale project that would put Fort Wayne on the map as a destination that welcomes individuals and families with disabilities.

The city could host events for athletes preparing for the Paralympic Games, for example.

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry, who participated in the announcement in the Grand Wayne Center, supports the project and pledged to do whatever he can to make it a reality.

For more on this story, see Wednesday’s print edition of The Journal Gazette or go to after 3 a.m. Wednesday.