The Indianapolis Indians want to bring Major League Baseball back to Victory Field. And with good reason.
Tickets for a game on April 2 last year pitting the Indians’ MLB affiliate, the Pittsburgh Pirates, against local fan favorite Cincinnati Reds sold out within hours and scored the Indians $349,465 in revenue.
That helped push the team’s profit up from $1.7 million in 2015 to just over $2 million in 2016. That, Indians brass noted at the team’s annual shareholders meeting, helped increase the annual shareholders’ dividend.
According to Indians Vice President Cal Burleson, the Triple-A minor league team has begun “preliminary discussions” with the Pirates and officials from other MLB teams about bringing major-league baseball back to Indianapolis.
Last year’s game exceeded the Indians’ expectations.
“We knew there was a tremendous appetite for Major League Baseball in central Indiana,” Burleson said. “We thought there would be a tremendous reaction to the game. I’m not sure we expected a sellout within 24 hours of the tickets going on sale.”
The exhibition game has upside for all three participants. It gives the Indians a chance to showcase the 14,200-seat Victory Field on the west edge of downtown to baseball fans who have seldom or never attended an Indians game. Burleson said there were some in that category attended last year’s Reds-Pirates contest.
And it also gives the Pirates and whatever team they play exposure to a market with a solid baseball fan base and no hometown major-league team to cheer on. It’s especially advantageous for teams like the Reds or Chicago Cubs or White Sox, who already have sizable fan bases here and are within driving distance of the MLB club’s home venue.
“We definitely think it’s good for the Reds, and we’ve been talking to them about coming back,” Burleson said.
While Burleson said those conversations are in their early stages, he said initial feedback from the MLB club has been positive.
The earliest the local game could be scheduled is most likely in 2019, Burleson said.
“We’re optimistic we can bring major-league baseball back,” Burleson said. “But it can be tricky dealing with all the schedules. [The MLB teams] obviously have a very hectic schedule and we have to clear the date for the venue as well. But we’re going to keep working at it because we know it’s something the local fans would love to see.”
Last year’s game was slotted the day before the Pirates' opening game against the St. Louis Cardinals.