They're hammering away at Parkview Field. Not the home-run hitters. The construction crew.
Fort Wayne's elite Class A downtown stadium and team aren't resting on their laurels, which include earning the "Top Minor League Baseball Experience" from Stadium Journey magazine for the second straight year.
Construction is under way on the 400 Club in center field, a suite that will be open in May, and new amenities and peripheral improvements are everywhere.
The Harrison beyond left field is also up and operating, including a bar/restaurant with seating on the stadium concourse.
“In our fifth season, we were looking for a 'wow' idea. What can we do to keep people coming down and taking about Parkview Field?” TinCaps president Mike Nutter said.
Nutter reeled off the list, starting with a new west gate entry off Ewing Street, a new ticket booth in center field and a new turf. But the 400 Club in center field is the centerpiece, so to speak, of the renovation.
It will welcome groups of 20 to 150 to relax in a suite where they can see home plate and feel a part of the game.
“We didn't realize that nobody in minor league baseball had ever done it, this bar-type group-type place in the batter's eye,” Nutter said. “You have to keep the area in dead center clear of advertising and everything. Portions of the glass came from Yankee Stadium, Mets stadium and Wrigley Field. Everyone told us, 'You're minor league, but you need to match the big leagues.' It didn't help the budget, but it should be awesome when it's done.”
The 400 Club is expected to be up and running in mid- to late May, with the first scheduled group booked for May 22.
An estimated $850,000 in private funds from the TinCaps were used for the new area, Nutter said.
“The city paid a lot of money to build this thing, but when we needed major money for renovation, the $850,000 came from private donations from the team,” he said. “We looked at a manual scoreboard like Wrigley Field. We looked all kinds of different opportunities.
“The one that resonated with us was to take the one area in the ball park that maybe wasn't big-league, had a little chain-link fence,” Nutter said. “So we looked at taking one of the places on the concourse where you could not see home plate and changing that, and it's going to be awesome.”
The TinCaps will also have their usual in-season promotions with popular performers from the past, including Jake the Diamond Dog, BirdZerk, Myron Noodleman, The Amazing Christopher, QuickChange, Breakin' BBoy McCoy and the ZOOperstars.
One other promotion has also garnered attention: One fan at the home opener April 11 will receive a $5,000 cash prize in honor of the team's fifth season downtown. Fans will receive a scratch-off card as they enter the stadium, and some will be instant winners of game-worn jerseys. Those winners will then be part of the drawing for the $5,000 prize.