This deal has the fingerprints of Fred Glass and Jack Swarbrick all over it.
And it’s brilliant on a number of levels.
On Thursday, the Indianapolis Indians announced Victory Field on the west edge of downtown will host a baseball game pitting Indiana University against Notre Dame on April 21.
Props also to Randy Lewandowski, who was promoted to Indians general manager in October, for getting the deal done this month. It’s the first time IU and UND have played at Victory Field, which opened in 1996.
The initial pitch was made by the Indians former general manager, Cal Burleson, last year. Burleson is now the Indians vice president of baseball and administrative affairs.
Glass and Swarbrick immediately liked the idea, but it took a while to work out the details and scheduling.
Glass, IU’s athletic director, and Swarbrick, who holds the same position at Notre Dame, both have deep roots in Indianapolis. Both were high-profile attorneys here and involved in the local sports movement. Both championed using sports to bolster downtown Indy.
The game starts at 7 p.m. and individual tickets start at $8. Group rates are available starting at $6 per ticket for groups of 25-99 and $5 per ticket for groups of 100 plus. Tickets went on sale online at IndyIndians.com Thursday.
It’s difficult to say how many fans will attend, but I wouldn’t be surprised—especially if game-day weather is decent—if 12,230-seat Victory Field is over half full. The interest in IU baseball is at an all-time high and there’s no shortage of local hardball fans who want to get a first-hand peak at the team.
Lewandowski is cautious in his attendance estimates.
"We're hoping for a few thousand, but it's hard to tell," he said. "We're definitely going to get after it from a marketing perspective because we see the potential for this. [The Indians] open April 9 and we'll be talking about this quite a bit to our ticket buyers during our first home stand."
The deal to bring IU and Notre Dame to Victory Field is a one-year deal, but Lewandowski is already thinking about an extension.
"Everyone involved wants to see how the first year goes," he said. "But if we get good buzz and it works out, we'd love to do this again. Just in the first few hours since we've made the announcement we're already getting strong interest, so that's a good sign."
The April 21 game should be good for both programs and Victory Field. Few can appreciate the three-way benefit as much as Glass and Swarbrick.
Before migrating to Bloomington, Glass was the president of the Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board, which owns and operates the city-owned sports venues and Indiana Convention Center. Before taking his UND post, Swarbrick was a member of the Indiana Sports Corp. board, including a stint as chairman from 1992 to 2001. He was instrumental in drawing the 2012 Super Bowl and the NCAA headquarters to Indianapolis.
The IU-UND game comes at an ideal time as IU has become a national baseball power over the last three years.
Indiana heads into the 2015 season fresh off back-to-back Big Ten regular season and tournament championships. The Hoosiers have established themselves as a contending baseball program on the national scene, including a trip to the 2013 College World Series, and have seen recent top level players such as catcher and outfielder Kyle Schwarber, infielder Micah Johnson and catcher Josh Phegley go on to find success in the pros.
“With our baseball program reaching unprecedented heights in recent years, we are thrilled to bring the excitement of IU baseball to our legion of fans and alumni in Indianapolis,” Glass said. “I know our student-athletes will enjoy the opportunity to play at one of the nation's finest ballparks, and we cannot thank the Indianapolis Indians enough for their willingness to host this unique event.”
The game gives the two programs the chance to share the spotlight in Indianapolis where they can be on display before fans, money-giving alums and potential recruits.
“We are excited to play in our backyard at one of the elite minor league ballparks in the country against a great in-state opponent in Notre Dame,” said Indiana coach Chris Lemonis. “I have the utmost respect for (Notre Dame coach) Mik Aoki and his program, and we look forward to competing in a terrific environment. We can’t wait to play in front of our fans and alumni in Indianapolis.”
The collegiate game also brings some diversification to one of the best sporting venues in the city.
While Victory Field hosts 70 plus Indians games every year and a handful of other events including the state baseball championship, some think it could—and should—be used to attract more events downtown.
“Victory Field is an amazing facility in a vibrant community,” said Jody Sadler, UND senior associate athletic director. “Not only do we have four current members of our team from the Indianapolis area, but we also have over 2,500 Notre Dame Alumni living in Indy and its surrounding suburbs.”