From 1930 to 1996, Bush Stadium, located on West 16th Street, was home to the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians. In 1992, Major League Baseball (MLB) determined that it did not meet the Minor League Baseball facility standards implemented in 1991. In July 1993, the president of the National Association, Minor League Baseball’s governing body, announced MLB’s intention to move the Indians unless the city made a commitment to upgrade the facilities.

Victory Field, ca. 2000
Credit: Banayote Photo Inc., Indiana Historical Society

Since Bush Stadium’s necessary renovations were estimated at $12-14 million, the Indians began negotiating with the Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board for the construction of a new stadium. These negotiations led to an announcement in late spring 1994 of plans for a new downtown stadium to be built just west of the Hoosier Dome, at 501 W. Maryland Street, on land made available by White River State Park.

Groundbreaking took place on December 16, 1994. Local architecture firm Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf (BDMD) designed the ballpark along with HOK global design, architecture, engineering, and planning firm. The space required a complete transformation because the land was a brownfield—previously a commercial site affected by real or perceived environmental contamination. The total cost of construction was $20 million.

Throwing the first pitch for a ball game at Victory Field, 1942
Credit: Indiana Historical Society

Victory Field initially included permanent seating for 12,230 and 28 suites, with lawn seating for approximately 2,000 additional spectators. HOK and BDMD incorporated an open concourse with great sight of the ball field and angled outfield seats at the foul lines, while providing city skyline views from every seat in the house. The firm created a welcoming main entry by including concrete pavers that begin at the stadium’s support piers and fan out to the street, guiding spectators toward the park. Its landscaping also complements the streetscape and White River State Park. The ballpark took the name Victory Field in April 1996, harkening back to the name that Bush Stadium had carried during and after World War II, between 1942 and 1947.

Following the last game played at Bush Stadium on July 3, 1996, home plate was removed and taken by limousine to the new ball field. On the evening of July 11, 1996, Governor Evan Bayh, Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, and Capital Improvement Board president Patrick Early threw the first pitches a the Victory Field’s opening game on July 11, 1996. In that game, the team lost to the Oklahoma City 89ers, 5-3, with 14,667 fans in the venue.

Victory Field hosted the Triple-A All-Star game in 2001. In 2005, a picnic area replaced a 1,000-seat bleacher section. The Capital Improvement Board and the Indianapolis Indians invested $2.4 million to enhance game-day production in 2016. Improvements that year included new sound equipment and a 35-foot-by-50-foot, high-definition video display that had the highest resolution of any in Minor League Baseball at the time. In 2018, the renovations were made to the suites at the park, and, in 2019, the Indianapolis Indians expanded the baseball club’s administrative offices and installed netting to prevent foul injuries to spectators. Pennsylvania brewery D. G. Yuengling & Son, Inc. took naming rights for prime seating in the left-field corner at Victory Field in 2020.

Although other downtown venues such as the Hoosier Dome, Lucas Oil Stadium, and Gainbridge Fieldhouse often have gotten more attention, Victory Field has played an important role in building the city’s reputation as a major center for sports. Baseball America named the stadium “the best minor league ballpark in America” in 1999, and Sports Illustrated followed, giving it the same designation in 2013. NBC sportscaster Bob Costas has called it one of “those retro ballparks that have some of the modern amenities that make it comfortable but have the old-time feel that is so much a part of baseball’s appeal.”

Beyond the Indianapolis Indians, Victory Field hosts other baseball events and teams such as the Indiana High School State Athletic Association state finals and an annual appearance by the Indiana University baseball team.

On May 11, 2021, the Indianapolis Indians announced their return to professional play at Victory Field after a 619-day hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Marion County Health Department limited fan capacity to 25 percent with the face mask mandate in place. The Indians played against the Toledo Mud Hens in their first game since August 31, 2019.

Revised July 2021
 

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