REGGIE HAYES: TinCaps, Parkview Field can do no wrong with game day experience

Parkview Field. (Photo courtesy Fort Wayne TinCaps)

Let’s start this column with a fact that should astound and delight: Good seats for the Fort Wayne TinCaps at Parkview Field are the same as they were 10 years ago.

No increase in 10 years. Let that sink in.

Hey, we complain about the cost of everything. This deserves notice. You can still get a TinCaps lawn seat for $5, a reserved seat for $8, a little better seat for $10 and a club seat for $13.

I might sound like a TinCaps or Parkview Field public relations rep, but when I look at what the TinCaps and Parkview Field have done over the last decade, I think it’s safe to say they can do no wrong.

They’ve almost perfected the game day experience and they’re always tweaking it ever so slightly – sometimes visibly, sometimes behind the scenes – to come closer to that elusive perfection.

This isn’t just my opinion. Parkview Field regularly wins honors for best stadium experience in the country. Sometimes that’s limited to minor league baseball. Sometimes it’s all of baseball.

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“A lot of our focus this year has been on the operation we have, getting through lines faster, things like that,” TinCaps president Mike Nutter said. “It’s not the glamour sound bite. But do fans have a better experience?”

A significant amount of investment went into improvements since last season, including more security cameras, painting, concrete work, field tarp, video board updates and other things that won’t pop out as “new” when a fan walks into the stadium for the home opener at 6:05 p.m. Saturday.

Here’s an example of a change that should help the experience, but won’t necessarily be noticed: The leftfield line concession stand has all new equipment to produce better speed from ordering to delivery.

As always, there are some new food options, including a loaded funnel cake and a walking taco stand for kids. Adults: There will be some new options for wine purchase. I’m not sure that’s the go-to drink for 35-degree weather on opening night but to each his own.

There will be some new between-innings performers. Tyler’s Amazing Balancing Act is a one Nutter expects to be well-received, along with Daniel D., a concert violinist who includes a wide variety of music in his repertoire.

Nutter makes sure to mention his fondness for “Myron Noodleman,” the longtime fan favorite who died of cancer in November. He’ll be missed.

“We always try a couple new ones,” Nutter said. “Sometimes they resonate and stay in the rotation.”

Do you like fireworks? Those are back, more than 30 times this season. Theme nights? There’s a “Grease” anniversary night, a tribute to Tom Hanks night and some of the more tried-and-true events.

“If I ever tried to get rid of ‘Star Wars Night,’ I’d be out of a job the next day,” Nutter said.

Lest I forget, Jake the Diamond Dog returns after becoming an Indianapolis Star sensation after about his 150th time at Parkview Field.

The product on the field should be good. Again, the San Diego Padres have loaded the TinCaps with young talent, much of it raw talent. They’ve entrusted Anthony Contreras with the manager’s role for the third season and former big league pitcher Burt Hooton will handle the talented staff again.

Fort Wayne’s minor league teams all provide terrific game night experiences, but the TinCaps are able to draw on something the others can’t: The outdoors. That might not be a benefit Saturday night, but come June and July, it’ll fill the seats.

The lawn seats are $5 for 10 years running. A great traditional seat can be had for $8. Who’s up to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”?

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com.

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