IBJNews

LEADING QUESTIONS: Indians boss still having a ball

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Leading Questions

Welcome to the latest installment of “Leading Questions: Wisdom from the Corner Office,” in which IBJ sits down with central Indiana’s top bosses to talk shop about the latest developments in their industries and the habits that lead to success.

Max Schumacher, 78, has been a fixture of the Indianapolis Indians AAA minor league baseball franchise for half a century. Starting as ticket manager in 1957, the graduate of Shortridge High School (Class of 1950) and Butler University (Class of 1954) began moving up the ranks almost immediately. He was general manager of the club from 1961 to 1997, and today continues fulltime as chairman and president.



For each of the last 35 years, the club has turned a profit. In 2010, the farm team of the Pittsburgh Pirates scored a profit of $922,286 on revenue of $9.32 million. That was up from $459,603 on revenue of $8.47 million in 2009.

It’s no surprise, then, that the club was inspired to dedicate one of this season’s additions to Victory Field – a large bell in right field to be rung after each Indians win – after the longtime team leader. Schumacher, who didn’t know that the bell would be inscribed with his name until just before the season, admits to being “embarrassed” by the honor, and quickly deflects at least some of the responsibility for the long-term success of the club to others.

But Schumacher clearly knows how to make the organization run. He convinced former Mayor Stephen Goldsmith to buy into his vision for a new downtown ballpark, replacing dilapidated Bush Stadium in 1996. Instead of allowing the city to cover the team’s cost to play there, he insisted that the club shoulder operating expenses and general maintenance, which in 2010 hit $3.8 million.

“We have the total responsibility for maintenance, upgrades – all of that is paid for with Indians money,” Schumacher said. “At the old ballpark, the city was responsible for the maintenance and really wasn’t doing anything with it.

“We bit off a lot [at Victory Field]. There aren’t many minor league clubs in that situation. They want the participation of the city. But we thought it was important for us to control that.”

The club also held onto the naming rights for the stadium, in hopes of avoiding frequent sponsorship-related name changes that have plagued other ballparks. “My greatest concern was that, if the city had the naming rights, they could be searching for funds and decide to put a name on our ballpark that was not a good name," Schumacher said. "So, we’re not out there looking to put a corporate name on Victory Field.”

However, the team has been aggressive in finding sponsorship deals for elements within the park’s interior. For example, new this season are Captain Morgan Cove, an open-air restaurant and bar in far-left field, and PNC Plaza, a mini-midway of games inside the centerfield entrance heavily branded by the eponymous bank.

The Indians’ sales staff negotiated a record $2 million in sponsorship deals for the 2011 season. That kind of offseason work is crucial to the club’s success – just as much, or more so, than the team’s record, Schumacher said.

“The secret to the season is what we do on the offseason,” he said. “From a bottom-line standpoint, If we have a competitive team, the crowds will increase somewhat because of that. But the real insurance policy is what we have done in the offseason to make sure that signage is sold, special nights are sold, the suites are all sold.”

A man of routines, Schumacher personally tours the ballpark either before or during every home game. In the video at top, IBJ accompanies him during a recent day game as he inspects the grounds, chats up fans and confers with employees. He also discusses his initial reaction to the Max Schumacher Victory Bell, the life lessons he gleans from baseball, and when he’ll know it’s time to retire.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. I am also a "vet" of several Cirque shows and this one left me flat. It didn't have the amount of acrobatic stunts as the others that I have seen. I am still glad that I went to it and look forward to the next one but I put Varekai as my least favorite.

  2. Looking at the two companies - in spite of their relative size to one another -- Ricker's image is (by all accounts) pretty solid and reputable. Their locations are clean, employees are friendly and the products they offer are reasonably priced. By contrast, BP locations are all over the place and their reputation is poor, especially when you consider this is the same "company" whose disastrous oil spill and their response was nothing short of irresponsible should tell you a lot. The fact you also have people who are experienced in franchising saying their system/strategy is flawed is a good indication that another "spill" has occurred and it's the AM-PM/Ricker's customers/company that are having to deal with it.

  3. Daniel Lilly - Glad to hear about your points and miles. Enjoy Wisconsin and Illinois. You don't care one whit about financial discipline, which is why you will blast the "GOP". Classic liberalism.

  4. Isn't the real reason the terrain? The planners under-estimated the undulating terrain, sink holes, karst features, etc. This portion of the route was flawed from the beginning.

  5. You thought no Indy was bad, how's no fans working out for you? THe IRl No direct competition and still no fans. Hey George Family, spend another billion dollars, that will fix it.

ADVERTISEMENT