ANT-ertainment

When you attend a Mad Ants game, fun is guaranteed for attendees of any age.
12/5/2018
Heather Herron
Cary Gerber & provided

You’ll go for the basketball and stay for the fun. Or maybe you’ll go for the fun and see some amazing basketball. Either way, the Mad Ants want you to be there.

For more than 10 years, top-notch basketball players have offered up some impressive stats and the crowds have been entertained with live music, dancing, games, and free giveaways.

“We actually call it ANT-ertainment,” laughs Mad Ants President Tim Bawmann. “It’s a huge part of what we do for our fans. Of course, there’s great basketball. We have guys who will play for the Pacers one night and then be in a Mad Ants uniform the next night. These are elite athletes in Fort Wayne and you have a chance to come see them up close and personal and then watch them on television maybe 24 or 48 hours later. But there’s more to our games than that. We really want to create a unique experience for people.”

In other words, you don’t have to be a basketball fan to enjoy a Mad Ants game. The fun starts from the moment people walk in the door of the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.

“As soon as folks come in, we have concourse entertainment, so maybe a DJ is playing as fans enter or we’ve got Island Vibe, which is a band that plays live,” Bawmann says. “Our dance team – called the Madame Ants – will greet folks on their way in. It’s great because kids can not only look up to the basketball players, but they can also see these really good dancers perform and look up to them as well.”

That’s something Sheenah Johnson takes seriously. She’s been the coach since the beginning and was also one of the original Madame Ants dancers.

“All of our dancers are either students or they have jobs. Some are teachers, some work in ophthalmology offices, we have an attorney, we have some who are in the service,” says Johnson. “So our dancers are role models. When little girls see us, it’s just letting them know that they can be anything, do anything and they can dance as well.”

Johnson knows the dancers play a vital part in the entire Mad Ants experience, and not just when they’re on the court performing.

“They mingle with the fans, visit the suites. They do outreach in the elementary schools to even get more exposure to get people to come to the games, and they appear around town whenever requested. They’re out and about all the time,” Johnson says. 

During the season, the players also visit local schools and hospitals. Selling tickets to their games is important, but so is connecting with the community. That’s why they often have giveaways for fans, things like bobbleheads, t-shirts or special promotional items like light sabers on Star Wars night. The fourth quarter dance party has become a big hit and a way to include the audience in the action.

While the game itself is the main attraction, Bawmann says the team understands the need to cater to some younger fans who don’t want to sit in the stands the whole time. That’s why they created the Kids Zone, complete with a bounce house, Pop-A-Shot, Skee-Ball, an inflatable tic-tac-toe game and a magic door.

On the court, an emcee helps keep the crowd engaged, and the Mad Ants is the only team in the G League to have a drumline. Then there’s the Ant himself.

“We’re lucky to have the performer who does it for us. He’s as good as anybody I’ve ever been around,” Bawmann says proudly. “In fact, I think he could work at the NBA level if he really wanted to. He’s become such a big identifier for us because our players are gone in the off-season and we like to be as involved in the community as we possibly can. We take him out and he’s very identifiable to fans.” 

Bawmann says from start to finish, the entire game is something everyone should experience.

“I’m so confident in our product – all I want you to do is come out and sample the product. I believe that once you come out one time, you’re going to come back because you’re going to have such a great time.” 

Mad Ants

Phone: (260) 469-4667

Website: fortwayne.gleague.nba.com

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