Photos from Fort Wayne - Part One reports from the Mad Ants' home opener

The Pistons’ D-League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, hosted their first-ever home opener on Friday, Nov. 23. wanted to be there to show our support to our D-League partner and also to celebrate the return of professional basketball to Fort Wayne, Ind. - a half-century after the Pistons left there for Detroit.

After a reasonable three-hour car ride from Metro Detroit, Blog Squad member Dave Wieme and I arrive at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, a 13,000-seat venue that also hosts the Fort Wayne Komets, a United Hockey League team; the Fort Wayne Freedom, an indoor football team; and the IPFW men’s basketball team. (That’s Indiana Univ.-Purdue Univ. at Fort Wayne.)

I called my college roommate, Jack, who is from Fort Wayne but now lives in Cincinnati, to tell him where I am. “Did we welcome you with 40 degrees and overcast?” he asks. How did he know?

Oh, here comes the welcoming committee - the Mad Ant himself. I’ve seen toddlers frightened by Hooper, so I reckon the Mad Ant should be haunting the dreams of children in no time. He’s very intense, as you can see, and runs around at frenetic pace like he’s on AGH - ant growth hormone. Bada-Bing! (Mr. Wieme will be with us until halftime, folks.) The Mad Ant nickname can be traced back to Revolutionary War general, “Mad” Wayne Anthony, who founded - you guessed it - Fort Wayne in 1794.

About 75 minutes before the 7:30 tipoff, and there’s not much energy to the pregame shootaround. Something’s missing … ah, yes, people. I’m worried they won’t show.

A walk outside the arena to the box office puts those fears to rest. Fans are streaming into the coliseum lobby at a rapid pace, some already wearing Mad Ants apparel. This is a good sign.

This is the first chance for many fans to buy merchandise of their new home team, and the merchandise stand is getting heavy traffic. The Mad Ant logo and yellow-burgundy-black color scheme are pretty attractive, leading to high sales of hats and t-shirts. “I’ve been behind the register all night,” one worker tells me, “and I’m selling a little of everything.”

Click here for Part 2...