The Indiana Pacers are turning seven of Bankers Life Fieldhouse’s 71 private suites into one big club-like area.
The seven suites at the Fieldhouse’s south end, directly above the Legends luxury seating and dining area, will be converted into an as yet-unnamed area with theater-style and loge seating. There will also be a bar area and television screens in a common area at the back of the newly renovated space.
The city’s Capital Improvement Board, which owns the 18,165-seat venue, approved the change at its Friday morning meeting. The CIB accepted a $2.8 million bid from Lebanon-based 3D Professional Contracting Inc. to do the work on the suites conversion.
The renovation will be paid by the CIB as part of a $160 million, 10-year finance package to the Indiana Pacers for the operations of Bankers Life Fieldhouse. As part of the deal signed by the city and Pacers in April 2014, the city agreed to make $33.5 million in improvements to the 17-year-old venue.
“We will move quickly on this,” said Capital Improvements Board Executive Director Barney Levengood. “It’s projected to be done by the preseason, with maybe some [construction] dust to move around.”
Levengood said the conversion is being made “to react to the marketplace.”
“This gives the Pacers more product to fill more niches,” he added.
3D’s bid was more than $700,000 higher than the estimate, but Levengood said it was the lowest and most responsive bid received.
The CIB on Friday also awarded 3D a contract to renovate three club level concession stands at the fieldhouse. That bid came in at $482,000, more than $100,000 below the estimated cost.
The suites project, Pacers officials said, should be completed in time for the opening of the Pacers season in the fall.
Pacers sales boss Todd Taylor said interest for seats in the area, which has a capacity of 104, are already heating up. The Pacers sales staff is focused on selling the tickets in the space in groups of four and on a season-ticket or multi-event basis, not for single games.
“We know this space is going to be great and should be in high demand,” Taylor said. “We’re already getting interest.”
It’s likely the space will be sold out before the Pacers season opens in October, Taylor added. He said the “intimate” feel should be a big draw, and he thinks it will be especially popular with a younger audience.
“It’s a new offering. It opens up a new option for someone who maybe doesn’t want a suite but wants a premium experience,” said Pacers President Rick Fuson. “We think it’s going to be very popular.”
The price of the new seats has not yet been set, Taylor said. Tickets will come with an option to include food and beverages, which Fuson said will range from gourmet grub to hot dogs and popcorn.
Not only do the Pacers hope the new space will be a money maker, but Taylor said it could offer a way to nudge people and organizations toward making a deal for a private suite.
The Pacers sales staff is in talks with potential corporate partners for a naming rights deal, Taylor said, adding it’s possible that agreement could be in place by fall.
Fans wanting to buy tickets to the area will have one of two options. They can either buy a group of four theater-style seats, which Taylor said will be wider and more comfortable than the typical arena seat. Or ticket buyers can buy a group of four loge-style seats, which are situated at a “press-like table” facing the court, Taylor said, with caster chairs.
The Pacers are not alone in converting private suites into other types of seating. Similar changes have been made in Chicago, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Golden State and other markets. Some NBA teams have chosen to convert suites to larger premium space like the Pacers while other teams have converted to more general—and less expensive—seating as they have struggled with occupancy for luxury suites.
Fuson insisted the Pacers did not make the change due to weak suite occupancy, adding that Indiana is one of the NBA teams with strong suite sales.
“This is about the way people use space and entertain,” Taylor said. “That has changed since this building opened in 1999. We’re keen to keep the building modern and meet the changing demand of our customers. This is about filling the gap in product offering we have.”
With the money from the CIB, the Pacers also are making upgrades to the Fieldhouse’s box offices, concession stands, stairways, locker rooms and cooling tower.
Other projects are in the works. On Thursday, IBJ reported that the state had agreed to pay $2 million toward the construction of a pedestrian walkway beneath Delaware Street connecting the fieldhouse to St. Vincent Center, the Pacers' new training facility.
The $50 million, five-story St. Vincent Center is under construction across Delaware Street from Bankers Life Fieldhouse and south of its parking garage. It is expected to house two NBA-regulation practice courts, as well as training and medical facilities. St. Vincent Health, which will offer services in the facility, has agreed to sponsor the center.