History of Parkview Field
When Fort Wayne’s Memorial Stadium closed its doors for the final time on August 28, 2008, it was only fitting that the winning pitcher was Jarrod Parker, a northeast Indiana native from Ossian. That last game against South Bend was another milestone in the baseball history of Fort Wayne, which dates back to 1871, when the first-ever professional game was played here. It closed out the 16th season at the ballpark that had become known as “The Castle,” a venue on Coliseum Boulevard that had welcomed professional baseball back to the Summit City in 1993. Hundreds of future major leaguers played at Memorial Stadium, but a change was coming to Fort Wayne and it was happening downtown.
In 2006, after Hardball Capital took control of the franchise, plans were set in motion to study building a new baseball park in downtown Fort Wayne. The BaseballPLUS committee was formed to examine the feasibility of such a project, and the construction of a multi-use ballpark was recommended. A challenge lay before not just that committee, but the entire downtown of the city of Fort Wayne — would it become a destination? A thriving city must have a vibrant urban core and Fort Wayne was at risk of becoming a donut city — one where everyone lives and plays around the outside, but none of that happens on the inside. The question became — how does that transition take place?
It started with ideas. Ideas from around the country at different ballparks like Fenway Park in Boston, which has the famous 37-foot high wall in left field, or Wrigley Field in Chicago which has buildings across the street with rooftop seating, or NewBridge Bank Park in Greensboro, North Carolina, home of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, which features high-top tables for group seating. All of those ideas were eventually implemented at Parkview Field in the form of the Home Run Porch in left field, the Treetops in right field, and similar high-top tables down the third-base line.
The public also had to be reassured with regard to safety, parking and the feasibility of a downtown ballpark. Would it be safe in downtown Fort Wayne at night? Would there be enough parking? Would anyone want to go downtown after 5 p.m.? As it turns out, the answers to all three of those questions have been a resounding yes.
Parkview Field was funded and constructed via a public-private partnership between the team — now renamed the Fort Wayne TinCaps — and the City of Fort Wayne. The move downtown brought not only a new identity for the team, but also an entirely new experience that involved the entire community of Fort Wayne, Allen County, Northeast Indiana and beyond. The team held a job fair before the 2009 season and more than 2,500 people showed up to apply for a position with the club. The franchise expanded from 35 game-day employees to more than 400, while the least expensive ticket price dropped from $6.50 to $5.00. The new ballpark didn’t just signal that there was a new sporting venue in Fort Wayne, but that a one-of-a-kind facility was becoming a staple of a revitalized downtown.
Over the next few years, the ballpark was joined at Harrison Square by “The Harrison,” a mixed residential/commercial building, the Courtyard by Marriott, a parking garage and a city park in center field. This development, in turn, attracted added business to the neighboring Grand Wayne Convention Center and over $50 million dollars in additional development to Fort Wayne’s downtown in less than five years.
Less than five years from when Parkview Field opened its gates, in an article discussing the resurgence of downtown Fort Wayne, The News Sentinel wrote that: “The real game-changer will probably turn out to have been near-perfect Parkview Field and the phenomenal first year of the Fort Wayne TinCaps baseball team. That project started bringing more people downtown.”
Parkview Field plays host to more than 400 non-baseball events each year, from large-scale festivals like Fort4Fitness, rock and country concerts, and YMCA Healthy Kids day to wedding receptions, business events and holiday parties. More than 100,000 people come to Parkview Field for special events each calendar year (above and beyond the 400,000 that come each season for TinCaps games). With more than 11,000-square feet of indoor meeting space, Parkview Field can host events of almost any size. Additionally, weather permitting, the ballpark is open 365 days a year as a public facility. Runners and walkers frequent Parkview Field each day, as each lap around the ballpark is 1/3 mile.
Following the 2011, 2012, and 2014 seasons, Stadium Journey Magazine ranked Parkview Field as the No. 1 Minor League Baseball Experience in the country, based on trips to all 160 Minor League Baseball venues. Editor Paul Swaney wrote, “The truly great venues are worth going out of your way to see, and Parkview Field, home of the Fort Wayne TinCaps, is a great example of a ballpark you need to see. If you love baseball, or if you just love life, then get this on your to do list ASAP."
As of 2014, the grounds crew at Parkview Field has been honored as the Midwest League’s Sports Turf Manager/Grounds Crew of the Year for an unprecedented five consecutive seasons, an honor that is voted on by the opposing managers that visit the ballpark each season.
Leaders from more than 30 other cities and teams, have visited Parkview Field to study the facility as a model venue and a catalyst for downtown revitalization.
The TinCaps have continued to improve Parkview Field each year. Over $3 million in privately-funded improvements have been made to the City-owned facility in just the first five years. The latest amenity added was the $900,000 “400 Club” which opened for the 2013 baseball season. The 400 Club is the first and only batter’s eye club in Minor League Baseball and provides a perspective on the game that can only be experienced at a small number of the best Major League ballparks.
Parkview Field has had a record-setting first six years. With the strong partnership that continues to exist between the team and the City of Fort Wayne, we look forward to an even brighter future.