July 3, 1996, marked the end of the Indianapolis Indians 65-year reign at Bush Stadium — a ballpark that housed the Indians for 20 division titles, 13 league titles and six class titles during its days as home to the minor league baseball team.
“The Indians final time to ‘take the field’ was immediately prior to the top of the ninth inning of that game and was announced from the top of the Indians dugout by Danny O’Malia,” recalls Cal Burleson, VP of Baseball and Administrative Affairs.
Eight days later, to help celebrate and mark the transition from the old ballpark to the new, a relay race made up with Special Olympics athletes carried the last ball used at Bush Stadium to the Indians’ new home, Victory Field, where it became the first ball used in that evening’s game. And now, twenty years later, although that ball has long since retired Victory Field has emerged as one of the country’s premier MiLB baseball venues.
One of the largest MiLB parks in the U.S., Victory Field is immaculately maintained and offers, says General Manager Randy Lewandowski, one of the best downtown-skyline views in all of baseball. And with record breaking crowds continuing to show up year after year — the month of May welcomed the park’s 12 millionth fan — Victory Field’s positioned well for continued success. Though oddly enough, the new stadium is actually a bit smaller than its west side predecessor with the current capacity topping at 14,200 compared to Bush’s 14,500.
“Victory Field opened with a capacity of 15,500 but has decreased due to stadium improvements,” said Lewandowski. However, since its opening, its maintained the second-highest overall attendance in all of MiLB falling slightly behind the Buffalo Bisons’ Coca cola Field.
The move from Bush Stadium to Victory Field has proven to be a win-win for both fans and players alike. Centrally located in the heart of downtown, Victory Field boasts a concourse with 360 degrees views of the playing field whether you’re seated in the lower deck, upper deck, lawn berm or in one of the well-appointed boxes. Plus there are multiple concession sites, plenty of restrooms, two picnic areas, and a full-service bar.
As for the players, though most have never stepped inside the old stadium, they’re able to enjoy all the amenities of larger, more modernly equipped clubhouses; which for the home team includes a full weight room, ample dressing space, a large sports medicine area and a player’s lounge. Additionally, there are two full size indoor batting tunnels near the clubhouse. But maybe most importantly — especially from a player’s point of view — is the exceptional playing surface, which has earned Victory Field Triple-A field of the year recognition three out of the last five seasons and is widely considered one of the best in all of professional baseball.
One things for sure, whether you’re a fan, a player, or anyone in between, Victory Field is unquestionably one of the best places in the country to enjoy our national pastime and if the next 20 years are anything like the last, its sure to continue as a staple summertime destination for years to come.