You can never accuse Parkview Field of being a cookie-cutter ballpark. The home of the Class-A Fort Wayne TinCaps, Parkview Field is one of the most intricately conceived and immaculately designed ballparks to come down the pike in years. The level of attention to detail is astonishing; it’s designed to be a place where a fan can attend games 30 or 40 times a year and walk away from each game with a new experience.
Year Opened: 2009
Dimensions: 336L, 374LC, 400C, 383RC, 318R
Cost: $31 million
Naming Rights: Parkview Health, $300,000 annually for 10 years
Architect: Populous (formerly HOK Sport)
League: Low Class A (Midwest League)
Parent: San Diego Padres
Tickets: Scout Seats, $12.50; Left-Field Home Run Porch, $10; All-Star Seats, $9; Field Boxes, $9; Reserved Seats, $8; Lawn Seats, $5.
Parking: Adjoining parking ramp and lots provide plenty of parking on game days.
Address/Directions: 1301 Ewing St., Fort Wayne, IN. From I-69: Take exit 111 onto US-27/SR-1 South. Turn right on West Washington Boulevard. Turn left on Fairfield Avenue. Turn left at Jefferson Boulevard. From I-469: Take exit 11, US-27/US-33. Follow US-27 North for 7.5 miles. Turn left on East Washington Boulevard. Turn left on Fairfield Avenue. Turn left on W. Jefferson Boulevard. From the South/West, via I-69: Take exit 105, Illinois Road East. Turn left on W. Jefferson Boulevard. From the East via I-469: Take exit 19, left at IN-930/US-30. Continue on East Washington Boulevard. Turn left at Fairfield Avenue. Turn left at W. Jefferson Boulevard.
Small and intimate, the ballpark feels like it’s been located in downtown Fort Wayne forever, even though it opened in 2009. The extensive brickwork on the interior and exterior of the ballpark mirror the older architecture in downtown Fort Wayne. It’s located in a particularly lovely part of downtown; the downtown skyline nicely frames the view from the concourse, while a center-field amphitheater provides the perfect gateway to downtown businesses. The doors to the ballpark are open all day long: Go to Parkview Field during a typical lunch hour and you’ll find local workers bringing in their lunch. There aren’t too many ballparks where you’ll see this.
There are 10 separate ticket levels at Parkview Field, which seems a little excessive for a Class A ballpark, but makes perfect sense when you see the ballpark in action: it allows the TinCaps to tailor the game experience for anyone at any price and service level. There are, of course, basic seats between the lines, as well as $5 lawn sets providing access to two different kinds of berm seating. Higher-prices seats behind home plate and on the club level provide wait service. Different levels of group and picnic levels can be specialized for all different sizes of groups, ranging from big picnic areas down the right-field line to concourse suites and field boxes — a table with four high-top stools — sold by the game. We’re guessing it’s not the easiest ballpark to manage, but having such an array of seating options is dazzling.
There is not a square inch of space wasted in this ballpark. Take the parking garage and event center in right field. In most cases, that space would have been left as the side of the concourse, providing easy access to the event center, and the surface of the second-floor parking ramp would have been used as a stand for signage.
At Parkview Field, that space ends up being so much more – and is a signature space within the ballpark. First, the parking-ramp wall supports the second-largest videoboard in the minor leagues, a 26×58 monstrosity from Texas Star Sports providing a crystal-clear display to every seat in the ballpark. (There are also two smaller outfield boards.) Second, the team and Populous added a nice set of sets – the Home Run Porch – to the side of the parking garage, giving a Wrigley Field-like rooftop experience. Ingenious and simple to implement, but it’s something every fan will discuss when they leave the ballpark.
The design of the ballpark takes a familiar model and adds some interesting twists. You have your standard wraparound concourse, with a grandstand topped with a suite/club level and a large party deck down the right-field line. Suite-level ticket holders have access to a private club with its own concessions (more on those later), something worth the price of a club seat on a cold day.
Walk around the concourse and you’ll be surprised by how different things look from different angles. Nothing is symmetrical, and nothing is uniform: even the home-run fence varies from a height of 10 feet in center field to 15 feet in right and 12 feet in left. There’s not an abundance of signage, either. To us, it seemed like every dollar spent on finishes and other details was money well spent. There’s a ton of brickwork finish at the ballpark. The permanent concession stands feature LED displays with prices and offerings. The team branding is reinforced throughout the ballpark without being overwhelming.
Parkview Field was designed to be a ballpark to watch a game and visit with friends and loved ones — but not necessarily in that order. For us, that’s a good thing. TinCaps owner Jason Freier puts an emphasis on the ballpark as a community gathering spot, and that goal was superbly realized by architect Populous (formerly HOK Sport). In year where Populous opened multiple ballparks — including the overrated Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, and the underrated Goodyear Ballpark — Parkview Field is clearly the best of the lot.
It is amazing for a minor-league ballpark to have 50 points of sale for food, but one of the goals for the TinCaps was to cut down on wait times for customers while serving the freshest and hottest food possible. Those goals are realized with some flair.
Half of those points of sale are at four full-service concession stands, all featuring the standard ballpark fare – hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, nachos, pop, etc. Also available at the main concession stands are items like grilled-streak sandwiches, Philly cheesesteaks, chicken sandwiches and chicken tenders.
The other 25 points of sale are scattered throughout the ballpark and concourse. Ballparks are sometimes criticized for being food courts surrounding a ballfield, but that criticism doesn’t carry water at Parkview Field. Twenty-three different carts feature different specialties. A Mexican cart, for instance, features hand-made burritos. A concourse beer stand features Guinness beer. A center-field grill features half-pound burgers, jumbo turkey legs and BBQ ribs. The Apple Cart behind home plate features sweets like apple turnovers, apple slices, apple cider and hot apple cobbler. Mixed drinks like apple martinis and microbrews are available at the Granite City Bar behind home plate. There are two additional points of sale in the suite level.
It’s not all junk at the ballpark: as part of the purchase of naming rights Parkview Health System is sponsoring a full slate of healthy-food options, including salads, hummus and grilled pita chips, sweet-potato fries, freshly squeezed lemonade, vegetable paninis and more.
The TinCaps kept concessions in-house; having ultimate control of what was served at the ballpark was a prime concern of TinCaps management. The attention to detail yields a fine, fine result: it’s possible to attend 30 or 40 TinCaps games in a season and never have the same meal twice.
HISTORY ON THE CONCOURSE
You don’t think of Fort Wayne as a baseball hotbed: the TinCaps’ lineage doesn’t go back very far (the Kenosha Twins moved to Fort Wayne for the 1993 season), and pro baseball was never of a big deal in the city; before the Wizards arrived the last affiliated team in the city was the Central League’s Fort Wayne Generals, who moved after the 1948 season.
To the TinCaps’ credit, they went out and actively sought out baseball history in the city, with the assistance of the local newspaper and historical organizations. Pro baseball in the city dates to the 1800s with the Fort Wayne Kekoingas, credited with playing in the first professional baseball game in 1871. The Fort Wayne Daisies were a mainstay of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, while the Fort Wayne Colored Giants was a semi-pro team in the 1920s. Former MLB Commissioner Ford Frick, current Indians manager Eric Wedge have ties to Fort Wayne. Chick Stahl, a ten-year MLB veteran in the deadball era who made headlines after killing himself while manager of the Boston Red Sox, grew up in Fort Wayne; Bill Wambsganss is a native as well.
These historical threads are woven together via sponsored section signage in the ballpark concourse. Ten historic teams and individuals are spotlighted, with accompanying plaques going into further detail about each. Also planned: eight more commemorative plaques along the perimeter of Parkview Field.