Victory Field keeps pace with newer, more expensive venues

The aging downtown home of the Indianapolis Indians continues to draw national attention and earn rave reviews.

Victory Field recently was named to Baseball America’s list of top 25 Minor League Baseball ballparks. The home of the Indianapolis Indians was ranked No. 6. The results are based on surveys given to more than 100 minor league general managers, radio announcers and league observers.

Built in 1996 for $20 million, Victory Field is the only venue in the top six built before 2000. Many venues in the top 25 listing were built much more recently and for a lot more money than the venue on the west edge of downtown Indianapolis.

Of the five ballparks ranked ahead of Victory Field on this year’s list, they average 14 years younger at an average cost to build of $60.3 million.

“I think this facility is in better condition today than the day it opened. The commitment to maintaining and constantly ‘freshening’ this ballpark has been amazing,” one of the survey respondents raved.

“We’ve worked really hard to keep Victory Field in pristine condition, and I think this ranking reflects that,” said Indians General Manager Randy Lewandowski. “Making sure our ballpark is first-class is a big part of the experience of coming to an Indians game.”

Louisville Slugger Field, which opened in 2000 and was once touted as the best minor league ballpark in the Midwest, was ranked No. 17 on the list. Aces Ballpark, which along with the Reno, Nevada-based team that plays there is part-owned by Indiana Pacers owner Herb Simon, is ranked No. 15. It opened in 2009 at a cost of $50 million, according to Baseball America.

Since Victory Field opened July 11, 1996, the Indians have paid almost $6 million for capital improvements—including two electronic scoreboards, an outdoor bar and restaurant, expansion and improvements to the facility’s gift shops and ticket offices.

Last year, the team spent $636,000 for a new wireless communications and WiFi system, and $275,000 to expand and improve the venue’s third-baseline gift shop and main-level ticket office.

Per the team’s lease agreement with the city’s Capital Improvement Board, the franchise covers capital expenses and pays all operational costs. Coupled with capital improvements, the Indians have spent well north of $50 million on the ballpark since it opened, team officials said.

In one of this professional sports market’s rare agreements, the Indians get no tax subsidies and pay the city $500,000 annually to lease the facility. The current lease expires March 31, 2016, and the two sides have begun preliminary discussions on a new deal.

Here is the top 10 from the Baseball America ranking:

1. BB&T Ballpark
Charlotte Knights
Opened: 2014
Cost: $54 million
Affiliation: Chicago White Sox

2. AutoZone Park
Memphis Redbirds
Opened: 2000
Cost: $80.5 million.
Affiliation: St. Louis Cardinals.

3. Regions Field
Birmingham Barons
Opened: 2014
Cost: $64 million
Affiliation: Chicago White Sox

4. Southwest University Park
El Paso Chihuahuas (Pacific Coast)
Opened: 2014
Cost: $72 million
Affiliation: San Diego Padres

5. Parkview Field
Fort Wayne Tincaps
Opened: 2009
Cost: $31 million
Affiliation: San Diego Padres

6. Victory Field
Indianapolis Indians
Opened: 1996
Cost: $20 million
Affiliation: Pittsburgh Pirates

7. Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Durham Bulls
Opened: 1995
Cost: $18 million
Affiliation: Tampa Bay Rays

8. MCU Park
Brooklyn Cyclones
Opened: 2001
Cost: $55 million
Affiliation: New York Mets

9. Isotopes Park
Albuquerque Isotopes
Opened: 2003
Cost: $25 million
Affiliation: Colorado Rockies

10. FirstEnergy Stadium
Reading Fightin Phils
Opened: 1951
Cost: $656,000
Affiliation: Philadelphia Phillies

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