Fort Wayne, Indiana, Becomes a Hub for Adaptive Sports

By Nina Barbero, March 23, 2018

Turnstone, a 75-year-old nonprofit for the physically handicapped, has long been a core community structure for Fort Wayne, Indiana. A recent addition has brought it national attention.

Turnstone Center, which provides educational and health services for disabled clients of all ages, expanded in 2015 with Plassman Athletic Center. Since the upgrade, the center has seen national recognition for its adaptive sports services. In fact, it has become home for two national Paralympic teams—U.S. Men’s and Women’s Goalball. Goalball is a team sport for the visually impaired.

“It tripled our footprint,” says Turnstone CEO Mike Mushettof, the Plassman Athletic’s impact. “As a result, we’ve been able to expand almost all of our programs.”

In the 2016-17 fiscal year, Mushett estimates Turnstone had 3,400 regular clients. When the number of visitors for athletic tournaments held at the Plassman is added in, that number grows to 10,000.

Turnstone Center/Plassman Athletic has been named one of the top 10 facilities for adaptive sports in the U.S. by Sports Planning Guide. With spacious locker rooms, extra-light doors and railings along each hallway—all designed for maximum accessibility by handicapped athletes—it is quickly becoming a national sports destination.

“It rivals some of the best athletics facilities on some Division 1 college campuses,” said Dan O’Connell, president of Visit Fort Wayne. O’Connell’s organization is a marketing partner with Turnstone.

Adaptive Sports Champion

O’Connell is proud that Fort Wayne is able to champion adaptive sports. “We have an opportunity here to not only serve our fellow man, but it’s a good niche market for our community to be good at,” he says.

Turnstone’s size and quality of facilities makes it a major draw for national competitions. “Over the past few years since they’ve opened up Plassman, we’ve attracted nine different adaptive sports events to our community,” O’ Connell said.

The Adaptive Sports USA Junior Nationals is one such event. In July, Turnstone will host more than 300 athletes for the 35th edition the weeklong competition for the disabled and visually impaired. Events will include archery, swimming and track and field.

Part Turnstone’s appeal is its location, which is a three-to-four-hour drive for several major markets, including Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis and Cincinnati.

Building Awareness

Beyond bringing adaptive sports to Fort Wayne through the Plassman, Turnstone Center has also facilitated awareness training with the local hospitality industry and area attractions to ensure the staff members understand the needs of the disabled.

That awareness already exists within the Fort Wayne community, which O’Connell said puts the needs of the handicapped “front and center.”

One example of this is a recent effort by the Anthony Wayne Services Foundation—another Fort Wayne organization that works directly with the disabled—to make a canal boat wheelchair accessible. Community fundraising helped to make this accessibility possible.

“They have been very much proactive in advocating to civic leaders about acceptability and sensitivity to people with disabilities,” O’Connell said.

In the works now for both Turnstone and Visit Fort Wayne is a bid to show even more people how much the area has embraced its adaptive sports brand—as a host for Olympic and Paralympic qualifiers.

“It’s really a community effort,” Mushett said. “Turnstone could not be located in a better community than Fort Wayne.”

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