Few teams achieve success as consistently as the Indianapolis Indians (Class AAA; International League), who deliver a quality product in a competitive market on a continual basis. The club took that success to another level this season and is being recognized with the 2018 Ballpark Digest Team of the Year.
“It’s exciting for us an organization, for our staff, and our fans,” said Indians president and general manager Randy Lewandowski. “It’s something that we’ll really carry with pride throughout the offseason.”
Over the course of this season, the Indians have maintained a per-game attendance average of more than 8,700 fans. While the club does have the advantage of playing in a major market, that also comes with the need to remain a viable entertainment option in a crowded landscape. Indianapolis also features NFL, NBA, and WNBA franchises, minor league hockey in the ECHL, professional soccer in the Division II USL, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy 500, and numerous other entertainment options. Yet, despite the number of entertainment destinations in Indianapolis, the Indians and Victory Field maintain a competitive pace year in and year out.
According to Lewandowski, the Indians work to build a family-friendly operation while leading a robust group sales effort. However, customer service and careful attention to the fan experience are also areas that the Indians consider in most of their decisions.
“We genuinely care about our fans, and really with every decision we make the fans come to the forefront,” said Lewandowski. “Whatever that might be, we want to make sure that the fans stay top-of-mind with everything that we do.”
Ballpark improvements have also been a part of the Indians’ formula for success. For the 2018 season, the club made major renovations to the Impact Suite Level at Victory Field, which followed a slate of improvements for 2017 that included new digital displays and a new digital sound system.
Major upgrades are obviously what catches the most attention, but the general upkeep of Victory Field is an area that the Indians stress in their operation. “I think the greatest compliment that we continue to get about Victory Field is that, while we opened in the middle of 1996, people walk into it today in 2018 and they’re shocked that it’s more than 10-years old,” Lewandowski said. “That’s something that is not only a testament to our staff that takes great care in it, but also to the commitment from our leadership that the maintenance of the ballpark and the upkeep is paramount and vital. That’s really, what I think, keeps us at the forefront here in Indianapolis.”
Of course, the Indians impact in the community is about more than just attendance and the upkeep of Victory Field. This year, the club set a franchise record by raising $49,304.30 for various local nonprofit organizations through game-worn, signed jerseys auctions. Those funds were raised through a variety of specialty jerseys worn for select home games this season, with this year’s beneficiaries including Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Indiana, Together We Rise, Indiana National Guard Relief Fund, Make-a-Wish, and Shepherd Community Center.
The Indians are a perennial success, and their performance in 2018 certainly added to that trend. It also positions the club to continually grow in the future, and Lewandowski credited the staff for being a factor in driving the Indians forward.
“If our staff continues to grow both personally and professionally, we think is everything is going to take care of itself,” he said. “Because if our staff is looking to do better and to be better, it will push the organization to greater heights.”
Images courtesy Indianapolis Indians.
This was a competitive season for Team of the Year, so are we highlighting three clubs with honorable mentions.
The Frisco RoughRiders (Class AA; Texas League) continue to make Dr Pepper Ballpark one of the most unique experiences in the minors, blending strong fan amenities with an ambitious promotional schedule. “We are thrilled to be recognized with this great honor,” said RoughRiders president & general manager Andy Milovich. “It’s been a fantastic year here in Frisco and we’re already building for an even better 2019 season.”
The Nashville Sounds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) have made First Tennessee Park a destination, not only by providing a strong fan experience for MiLB games but also by making the ballpark into an active venue for non-baseball events. “To be considered as one of the top teams in Minor League Baseball is a great honor,” said Sounds general manager Adam Nuse. “Our hard-working staff does everything possible to provide the best fan experience in baseball. We have tremendous gratitude to the fan base in Nashville and the surrounding communities. They have packed First Tennessee Park throughout the summer and we’re extremely thankful of their support.” (For more on the Sounds’ success, see our Executive of the Year profile on vice president of operations Doug Scopel.)
The Winston-Salem Dash (High A; Carolina League) traditionally run an exceptional gameday experience at BB&T Ballpark, and that was no different in 2018, as the club has maintained a solid operation while posting strong attendance numbers. “There are many outstanding operations across Minor League Baseball and we are honored that Ballpark Digest has recognized our team as one of the top clubs in 2018.” said Dash president C.J. Johnson.
2018 Ballpark Digest Award Winners
Executive of the Year: Doug Scopel
Ballpark of the Year: SRP Park
Past Ballpark Digest Team of the Year Award Winners
2017: Hartford Yard Goats
2016: Birmingham Barons
2015: South Bend Cubs
2014: Fort Wayne TinCaps