The Indianapolis Indians are putting a little “Captain” in Victory Field.
The franchise has torn out about 400 seats in left field to make way for Captain Morgan Cove—an open-air restaurant and bar that will feature a menu separate from other stadium offerings and table service for up to 120 fans.
The new restaurant will cost about $700,000 to build and will replace Sections 101 and 102, said Cal Burleson, the team’s vice president and general manager. It should be ready for the team’s home opener April 7.
Burleson said the team inked a three-year naming rights deal for the restaurant worth “six figures” with Diageo PLC, the London-based parent of the Captain Morgan brand of rum.
The team, which will cover the full cost of the improvements, planned to share details of the arrangement at a meeting with its shareholders Feb. 7.
“This will enable us to provide a different type of entertainment area for our fans that we haven’t had previously,” Burleson said. “We have the best Minor League ballpark in America, but that doesn’t mean we don’t always try to make it better.”
Tickets to the Cove area will be available to individuals or groups based on demand, and will go for $30 apiece, which includes a $10 voucher for food or drinks. The bar itself will be available to all fans, offering a full spirits menu on the stadium’s concourse level for the first time since Victory Field opened in 1996.
The restaurant is “guaranteed” to be a hit as a game-day attraction, said Billy Stinnette, director of food and beverage for the Arkansas Travelers, the Double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
The Travelers’ stadium, Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock, features a bar and grill called Ump’s that used to open for lunch every day during the baseball season.
The restaurant performed well during games but struggled to attract a crowd otherwise, since diners had to park an apparently daunting 50 yards away, Stinnette said. The franchise is considering whether to keep operating the restaurant or transition to just a bar when the season opens.
The new Captain Morgan Cove at Victory Field initially will open only during games but eventually could be available for other events at the stadium, Burleson said.
The Indians, the Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, are selling season tickets and ticket packages but aren’t yet offering packages or single-game tickets for Captain Morgan Cove.
The deal with Diageo has helped the team reach 88 percent of its 2010 sponsorship level already for 2011, Burleson said. The Indians are expecting a 10-percent jump in sponsorship revenue this year.
The opening of the restaurant should coincide nicely with the opening of the JW Marriott convention hotel across Maryland Street.
“Having the JW Marriott outside our left-field wall is kind of like having a small suburb outside your left-field wall,” Burleson said. “There’s no question that audience will find it very attractive.”
The Cove is only the latest major improvement to Victory Field. The team spent $700,000 to add a new videoboard before the 2010 season. It added the Coors Light Corner picnic area in the right field before the 2007 season. Accounting for seats lost to make way for the new restaurant, the stadium will seat 13,000. Seating is available for another 1,500 to 1,800 on the lawn.
The Indians aren’t the only minor-league team piling on amenities to grab the attention of fans who have plenty of other sports options.
The RoughRiders of Frisco, Texas—the AA-affiliate of the Texas Rangers—share a region with the MLB’s Rangers, NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The Dallas suburb also is home to a Major League Soccer team and an NBA Development League franchise.
But the RoughRiders have Dr Pepper Ballpark. Besides seating for 8,000 and a pool in the outfield, the stadium has several sit-down dining options including: J.C. Penney Club, an indoor buffet with a menu that changes for each game; Mirassou Sunroom, a restaurant featuring barbecue from local favorite Sonny Bryan’s and Mirassou wines; InTouch Grille, a sit-down restaurant with upgraded stadium food; and Teddy Express, a grab-and-go restaurant. Each option is available only to select fans, based on their seating level.
“There’s a heckuva lot of friendly competition and we’re all trying to separate ourselves and make sure our fans have a great experience,” said Aaron Goldsmith, the team’s broadcasting manager. “In minor-league baseball, it’s tough to be a fan of the players because a lot of them you don’t know and as soon as you get to know them, they get promoted or demoted.”•