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Pacers' G League affiliate (Mad Ants) moving, to play games in $36.5M proposed Noblesville arena: What you need to know
The Fort Wayne Mad Ants will be the Mad Ants for another season — then undergo a complete rebranding ahead of playing games in Noblesville, Ind.
The Indiana Pacers’ G League franchise is moving cities, getting a new name, mascot and arena.
The City of Noblesville held a press conference on Monday afternoon to announce their 10-year partnership with Pacers Sports & Entertainment (PS&E) on a new arena that will become the home to the Mad Ants.
Where: Noblesville has agreed to build a 3,400 seat, 85-000-square-foot arena at Finch Creek Park on the east side of the city. It’s about 40 minutes and 30 miles from the Pacers’ facility in downtown Indianapolis. With a population of more than 71,000 residents, Noblesville is the ninth-largest city in Indiana.
How: Noblesville is spending $36.5 million on the construction of the new arena, which is currently just grassland near Mojo Up Sports complex. PS&E is investing $5 million in cash and will work to secure another $5 million in naming rights for the building, which, until then, is being referred to as Noblesville Arena.
When: The Mad Ants plan to play all home games next year — the 2023-24 season — at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. The hope is that this new arena will be ready for the 2024-25 season. This past season, the Mad Ants played eight games at The Fieldhouse and 16 games at their original home, the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
Why: This follows the trend across the G League of teams moving closer to their NBA team. The basketball side of the team moved from Fort Wayne two years ago with players staying in the apartments near the St. Vincent Center — the Pacers’ $50 million practice facility that opened in 2017.
New name and mascot too: The Mad Ants will continue to be the Mad Ants through the 2023-24 season. (They were first established in 2007.) Then, they will undergo a full rebranding that includes a new team nickname, mascot and more.
What he said — PS&E CEO Rick Fuson in a news release: “The G League is world-class basketball, and PS&E is proud to bring that to Noblesville as we strengthen our basketball operations and enhance player development in one of the state’s most vibrant and growing communities. We are excited about the way this partnership fits into the bold vision for economic development Mayor (Chris) Jensen has laid out, and we can’t wait to continue growing our NBA and G League fan base right here in Hamilton County.”
The G League is made of up of 31 teams, 29 owned by an NBA franchise — plus the G League Ignite and Mexico City Capitanes. (The Phoenix Suns are the only franchise without one.)
The eventual move to Indy seemed inevitable, it was just a matter of time and having a game venue in place. The team had been living and practicing in Indy, then getting on a bus for home games in Fort Wayne.
The players enjoy being in Indianapolis, having 24/7 access to the team facility and being around members of the Pacers’ front office, training and support staff daily.
However, it doesn’t make it easy on the business staff, which was still based in Fort Wayne. They were informed of the news Monday morning.
Mad Ants general manager Chris Taylor declined to comment when reached to discuss the basketball impact of this deal.
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The Mad Ants have played games in Indy for the past two seasons, since 2021, and the expectation was for them to play a split schedule (with fewer games in Indy) this upcoming season.
But then this deal happened.
It’s also my understanding that Mad Ants head coach Tom Hankins is wrapping up the four-year contract that he signed in 2019 to join the franchise, first as a Pacers assistant player development coach. He then became the seventh head coach in Mad Ants history, replacing Steve Gansey, in 2021 before the G League played games in the bubble.
The Mad Ants finished this past season with a 30-20 record and they won their last five games to qualify for the G League Playoffs. It was Hankins’ third season as head coach.
NBA teams will have three two-way contracts beginning next season after a new Collective Bargaining Agreement was ratified, which will allow for players to split time between the Pacers and Mad Ants.
This is a significant development for PS&E, which also runs the Indiana Fever, Pacers Gaming and the Pacers Foundation.
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