Major League Baseball Needs To Consider Indianapolis Home For New Team

Major League Baseball Needs To Consider Indianapolis Home For New Team

Can you remember the first time you stepped foot into a Major League Baseball park? The smell of grilled hot dogs and onions, vendors screaming, the crack of a bat from batting practice? I can remember the first time I did, most notably the first real-time I had appreciation for Major League Baseball and the beauty of its fields. The atmosphere of a baseball game is unparalleled to any other professional sport, played in the heart of summer. I can remember so vividly why I loved as a kid to get to the ballpark hours before the game even saw its first pitch. The gates would open at least two hours before first pitch, being able to watch batting practice from the visiting team and interacting with some of the players.

Let us take a trip down memory lane for a minute…

I was about 9 years old when I remember walking into U.S. Cellular Field in the summer of 2004. The Boston Red Sox were in town (the year they broke the curse) and Johnny Damon was one of the highest praised players in baseball, Baseball Jesus, as they would call him. Now back then, I had my Chicago White Sox gear on, but quickly rushed to the edge of the dugout swarmed by hundreds of other fans trying to get a glimpse of Damon. When he walked over and started signing autographs, my 9 year old self squeezed between large middle-aged men hoping for a chance of getting an autograph from soon to be World Series Champion Johnny Damon. I can remember him reaching out seeing my hand among hundreds of other screaming fans, handing me a ball with his signature and number plated smack in the middle of the baseball. I was shaking from head to toe, rushing as soon as possible back to my parents to show them the prized possession I had just received. Just in that one single moment, Major League Baseball and its players had given me a story to tell that I could keep with me for a lifetime.

So why does this story have any significance to Indianapolis and Major League Baseball?

Well, these types of experiences happen each and every day around Major League Baseball parks with players, coaches, fans, and staff making the experience of watching America’s Past Time one of the most unique in the industry. I have always wondered why Indianapolis was not home to the MLB. While it does have its roots in the MiLB with Indianapolis Indians, it is time for Major League Baseball to start considering expansion to markets that have been untapped for decades.

The Indianapolis Indians hold the second largest attendance record in Minor League Baseball among the teams in the International League with 662,536 people attending games in 2015. This is just shy of the Charlotte Knights, who averaged 9,428 people per game last season and a total of 669,398 at its conclusion. While this may seem to be only a fraction of the fans that a Major League Baseball team can streamline into their ballparks each day, Indianapolis is home to one of the largest television markets in the United States without a Major League Baseball team. It is home to the victoryfield1Indiana Pacers and the Indianapolis Colts, separated by just blocks in the downtown area. Victory Field sits somewhere in between, where fans from the downtown area continue to fill the seats for every game to watch the AAA-affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates play their games.

Victory Field, which was named #1 on Sports Illustrated’s “Best Minor League Ballparks In America” in 2015, can hold a capacity of nearly 15,000 people for a game. If you look at the average attendance of a single game for the Indians, that’s nearly filling 66% of the seating for a Minor League Baseball Team playing in a Major League Market. Take Tampa Bay and Cleveland for example, in 2015 the average attendance for both teams was 15,322 and 17,361 respectively. Tropicana Field, which is home to the Tampa Bay Rays can hold approximately 42,732 fans for a game. Progressive Field in Cleveland can hold 37,675 fans for each game. That puts Tampa Bay at 35% occupancy and Cleveland at 46%. If both of these markets continue to struggle filling seats in the future, why not consider relocation. Major League Baseball sees attendance fluctuate with the success or demise of its teams, but both markets have struggled to bring fans in and keep them coming back.

Tropicana Field, the home to the Tampa Bay Rays has seen a decline in attendance over the past decade.

Tropicana Field, the home to the Tampa Bay Rays has seen a decline in attendance over the past decade.

While Victory Field would need considerable expansion to help fill the need of seating for its fans, people will continue to come to games just as they do with the Indianapolis Indians. The ballpark is just minutes from the heart of the city where a plethora of restaurants and attractions can be an ideal spot for summertime baseball.

Professional Baseball can be dated back in Indianapolis to as far back as 1887 where a multitude of different teams played. The Indianapolis Indians have been established here as early as 1902. Baseball has a rich background in the Indianapolis area, while other major market cities have continued to struggle with attendance and really invigorating fans to continue to come to games. It could be possible that younger generations have found it less attractive to watch sub-.500 teams live and with digital media rapidly growing, teams are finding out that their once thriving ballparks are dwindling.

While Indianapolis has flirted with the likes of teams such as the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, and even the Montreal Expos in the past, it seems the city has become content with their smaller market play. If the fans of Indianapolis can average the type of attendance ratings for a Minor League Baseball, what could it do with a Major League team?

Let us not forget the other major events Indianapolis has been home to in recent years including the Indianapolis 500, NCAA Men’s Final Four, The NCAA Women’s Final Four, Super Bowl XLVI, The Big Ten Men’s Basketball Conference Tournament, and Major League Baseball exhibition games. These are just a few of the major sporting events that the city has held in recent years. It makes a strong case for the fans of Indianapolis to really surround themselves with a new professional team.

So for Major League Baseball to take a chance on Indianapolis as a possible home in the future, it would become the second smallest market to have three major professional teams (Cleveland being the smaller). If the MLB wants to make a splash and reenergize its fans who are passionate about the game, consider one of the best places in the Midwest. Give the opportunity to young fans like I once was to experience something they can keep with them for a lifetime.

Written by Jordan Maly

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