On the move: Pacers’ NBA G League team to call $36.5M Noblesville arena home


The Mad Ants, an affiliate in the NBA G League, plans to relocate to Noblesville from Fort Wayne as part of a plan that will result in an 85,000-square-foot arena being constructed at Finch Creek Park that city officials say could provide a major economic boost and transform the city’s east side.

The city and Pacers Sports & Entertainment announced a partnership May 8 that will result in a 3,400-seat arena being developed. The city is committing $36.5 million and will be responsible for issuing bonds to finance the design and construction of the facility, according to a 10-year partnership agreement.

The agreement, which was approved by the Noblesville Common Council May 9, includes $5 million in cash investment from Pacers Sports & Entertainment, which will also lead an effort to secure another $5 million in naming rights and signage over those 10 years, in addition to $36.5 million from the city to build the arena.

Under the agreement, the Pacers will rent the event center for 10 years with a one 10-year option with average rent averaging $500,000 annually over the 10-year term.

“We are excited to welcome Pacers Sports & Entertainment to Noblesville along with the players, coaches and staff of the G League team,” Noblesville Mayor Chris Jensen said. “The Pacers are an iconic brand with deep roots in central Indiana. Partnering with such an impactful organization opens numerous opportunities for our community and drives forward our efforts for a larger sports and entertainment district with enhanced partnerships.”

The new arena is anticipated to open during the 2024-25 season, and the Mad Ants would play at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in the interim, officials said. City and team officials said they are working through due diligence steps with local partners and plan to build the arena at Finch Creek Park near the Mojo Up Sports Complex, which generates nearly 1 million visits per year.

Jensen said he expects the arena, which would be owned by the city, will draw 65,000 fans annually to Noblesville and Finch Creek just for games, which is already the second-most visited area in Hamilton County for sports visitors. He called the upcoming project “a game-changer” for the City of Noblesville.

“We had to make sure the deal worked for everybody and we’re there,” Jensen said.

Jensen said the city is working with the Pacers and other partners on programming options for the arena on days it is not used by the Pacers. The facility would be available for events like IHSAA tournaments and competitions, concerts, conferences, corporate events and graduations, he added.

Jensen also said the city wants to use the arena as a catalyst for further development at Finch Creek Park, noting that the public will see additional amenities added into the city’s master plan for the area.

“Further steps are being taken to finalize development and programming partners, which may also incorporate additional project features and recreational amenities,” Jensen said.

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Pacers Sports & Entertainment CEO Rick Fuson speaks during a press conference May 8 at Finch Creek Park in Noblesville about a partnership between his organization and the city that will result in an 85,000-square-foot arena. The arena will bring the Mad Ants, an affiliate in the NBA G League, to Noblesville and is expected to open during the 2024-25 season. (Photos by Matthew Kent)

Pacers Sports & Entertainment CEO Rick Fuson said the franchise will remain the Mad Ants through the 2023-24 season. A new mascot will be unveiled prior to the 2024-25 season, he said.

Fuson said the partnership between PS&E and the city resulted after some conversations with plans eventually coming together quickly.

“It was always an opportunity for us to come together to do something for economic development, for the central part of the state, for Indiana,” Fuson said. “Anytime you can bring your name into one of the fastest growing cities in our state, it’s a great opportunity for us to build fans, but at the same time, it’s an opportunity for economic development and it’s important for us to be a part of the community.”

Fuson said he thinks the arena could be a boost for the city ranging from more industries and additional restaurants, in addition to fans being able to see NBA-level talent in Noblesville.

“You’re going to see a lot of different folks playing here that play in the NBA,” he said. 

Fuson said the Mad Ants’ name will be retired, although no determination has been made on what the new name will be. According to the Fort Wayne Gazette, in 2020, the Mad Ants ranked 10th among the G League’s 28 teams in average attendance.

That figure was just below the league-wide average of 2,245 fans, the newspaper said. A message was left with Fort Wayne city spokeswoman Elizabeth Webb seeking comment on the pending move.

  “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,” Fuson said. “We are excited about the way this partnership fits into the bold vision for economic development Mayor Jensen has laid out, and we can’t wait to continue growing our NBA and G League fan base right here in Hamilton County.”

Noblesville Common Council President Aaron Smith lauded the partnership.

“We welcome the new partnership with the Pacers,” Smith said. “The administration and council have made proactive, smart investments to assist with the financing of this partnership. We are excited to continue the strategic growth on the east side of our city and provide a new attraction for our residents and guests.”

Smith said the project is one that allows the city to extend the corridor since it is in proximity to Ruoff Music Center, making it a prime spot for future investment opportunities.

The G League has 30 teams with 28 of those having one-to-one affiliations with NBA franchises, according to the city.

“Fifty-four percent of NBA players have G League experience. Noblesville will compete in 27 media markets in 21 other states, plus Mexico and Canada,” Jensen said. “Noblesville also has a proud history of being a basketball community, including 1998 Mr. Basketball Tom Coverdale and the 2022 Millers girls basketball state champions. Adding our partnership with the Pacers only cements us as a destination for basketball and youth sports.”

Noblesville Arena Interior
As part of the partnership with Pacers Sports & Entertainment, Noblesville plans to build a new 3,400-seat, 85,000-square-foot arena on the east side of the city.

By the numbers

  • 85,000: Number of square feet the arena will have when completed
  • 3,400: Number of seats
  • 36.5: Millions of dollars the city will pay to build the arena
  • 30: Number of G League teams