Indianapolis Indians forced to call off season for first time in 120 years

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The Indianapolis Indians canceled their season Tuesday after Major League Baseball informed its Minor League Baseball affiliates that players would not be made available to compete in a pandemic-shortened season.

The Indians were founded in 1901 and have played 119 consecutive seasons—including through World War II—before this season.

The Indians, who serve as the triple-A farm team for the Pittsburgh Pirates, are sure to take a big financial hit from the decision, since most of the club’s revenue comes from ticket sales, suite rentals and concessions.

It will also be another blow to the downtown tourism and hospitality industry. The Indians typically draw about 600,000 people per season to Victory Field, and many of those fans spend money at nearby businesses.

Randy Lewandowski, president and general manager of the Indians, said the club is “disappointed and saddened” by the cancellation

“We had remained hopeful that Indians baseball this summer would serve as a rallying cry for our community as we begin our recovery from the pandemic,” Lewandowski said in written remarks.

Lewandowski told IBJ in an email that the team is “in a good financial position to weather this storm and looks forward to the 2021 Indians baseball season.”

The Indians applied and received a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan for $918,000, Lewandowski said. He said the funds were used for payroll, including for part-time game-day staff, and for utilities. Under terms of the program, those loans do not need to be repaid if they are used for payroll.

Lewandowski said the Indians have no plans to furlough or eliminate full-time staff. He said it is “too early for us to characterize the [financial] losses, but we will be affected just like so many other small businesses and sports/entertainment/hospitality entities.”

The Indians organization has been profitable for 44 consecutive years, bring in a low-seven-figure profit in recent years. In 2019, the franchise had $14.7 million in revenue. Of that, $6.6 million came from ticket sales and suite rentals, another $2.8 million came from concession sales and $4 million came from advertising deals.

Last season, the Indians averaged 8,600 fans per home game over 68 games, ranking fourth in Minor League Baseball.

Lewandowski previously told IBJ that playing at an empty Victory Field wouldn’t be beneficial to the franchise because of its reliance on ticket sales.

“From Minor League Baseball’s perspective, playing in front of no crowd doesn’t benefit anyone because we rely so heavily on ticket and other [in-venue generated] revenue,” he said in May.

MLB teams—in this case, the Pirates—generally cover player salaries for minor league affiliates.

Lewandowski said the club still plans to host other events at Victory Field throughout the summer.

So far, five specific events have been announced:

— Victory Field Blood Drive, July 7, noon to 5 p.m;

— 31st Annual Ice Cream Social, July 10, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.;

— Grand Park College Summer League games, July 16, July 23 and July 30, 6:30 p.m.;

— Grand Slam Auto Show, Sept. 5, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.;

— IndyHumane’s Mutt Strut dog walk, Sept. 26.

Major League Baseball plans to play an abbreviated 60-game season starting July 23 or 24 in empty ballparks. It will be MLB’s shortest season since 1878.

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10 thoughts on “Indianapolis Indians forced to call off season for first time in 120 years

  1. It doesn’t look like the “COVID dictators” are ever going to allow us to ever have sports again. It is one thing we need and they are preying on our fears and weakness of mind to force upon everybody a mindless tragedy that goes against every scientific principle known to modern medicine.

    1. Donald “corrupt, lying, traitor” Trump is the reason COVID-19 has spiraled out of control. Trump only cares about what benefits Trump and he has totally mismanaged COVID-19. Trump is incompetent, deranged and totally unfit to be President.

      I usually vote GOP but no more. I told you cult loving Trumpers he should’ve been impeached so a competent GOP could run for President.

    2. Mark B.
      Please explain how President Trump was at fault. He as the rest of the world took the recommendations of the WHO who very China centric downplayed it. If you did any honest research instead of spewing lying leftist propaganda, you would President Trump to immediate measures to protect our country above the rest of the world regardless of the WHO.
      Remember in the early stages Dr. Tony Fauci said it was no reason the be alarmed or concerned while at the same time Nancy Pelosi was downplaying it as well with her visit to Chinatown accusing President Trump of making a bigger deal out of it than it really is. While Trump was closing our borders as preventive of COVID-19, Chuck Schumer with Pelosi and the rest of the Socialist Marxist Communist Democrat Anarchist Globalist through it into court to try to stop President Trump. Thank God the court saw through the lunacy and got the Dems out of the way.
      Once again comrade, truth isn’t on your side.

      Shame on you!!!

    3. I so agree but get slammed whenever I say anything. In 1-2 years they will be wondering why people (especially kids) are living in fear of everything and why communications skills have dropped.

  2. Emile Good point . Names will offend someone. Everything is offensive. No end in sight. Also, no one will say or admit that with the riots downtown, events have all been canceled. I am not going downtown anyway due to the riots, and probably others will stay away. And, do you think the riots all over the country and packed funeral services have had anything to do with the spread of COVID……….. It is not p.c. to say so, but I just dared utter this thought.

  3. Neil D. I have a large class of Kool-Aid for you. I assume you are anti-vaxer but I could be wrong. Enjoy the iron lung and polio or maybe your parents were smart enough to realize a health crisis and had you vaccinated.

  4. This is a worldwide pandemic. All of our US leaders had this so wrong but even if they were more on the ball we would essentially get to the same place. Until we have a vaccine it is going to hover over us. Trump hoped it would just go away (Wrong). Trump shut our boarders from China while Biden and every left wing news source called him a racist. Trump Right all others wrong. Many governors were ill equipped to handle this pandemic. Most tried to blame the Federal Govt which was not ready but the states were even less ready. Fauci and the CDC are basically a joke as has been the WHO. And lastly The Pelosi led House was too busy trying to Impeach Trump that they were totally oblivious to the growing pandemic. All of our leaders failed us on this but even if they had reacted quicker this was gonna be bad and CHINA is the ones to blame. Anyone who thinks otherwise has their head buried in the sand. Get ready for NBA to be cancelled and no college of pro football. Colleges are going online well before Thanksgiving.

  5. Covid-19 is a national problem that requires a national solution. If you’ve never heard of a collective action problem, then whatever education you had failed miserably. The proof that Trump failed is in every table/chart/graph of the number of cases sorted by country. The US and Brazil are the most pathetic responses. It did not have to be this way, but it is because our leader takes no responsibility. If the governors are going to solve this, they would need to all get together and form centralized committee that would then produce a centralized consistent plan that they would all implement. Oh wait, we already have that, it’s called the federal government and the person at the top refuses to do anything but lie about it.

  6. So sorry to hear this. It would be nice if we could have a short season with 50% capacity. If everyone would wear masks and social distance, I think with can get back to some normalcy.