Introducing Gainbridge Fieldhouse: Indy’s Fieldhouse Of The Future
With the start of the Indiana Pacers 2021–22 season right around the corner, the executive team and staff at Bankers Life Fieldhouse have been wrapping up an extensive $360 million “Fieldhouse of the Future” renovation project, and even more, they have recently announced the new name of Indy’s beloved fieldhouse. We are pleased to help announce the new name—Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
We spoke with Pacers Sports & Entertainment President/COO and Carmel resident Rick Fuson and EVP of Corporate Communications, Community Engagement and Facilities Operations Mel Raines about the renovation project and what ticketholders and guests of the fieldhouse can look forward to when they attend games, concerts and other specialty community events.
Following in the Footsteps of Indianapolis’ Visionaries
The fieldhouse is already consistently and independently listed as one of the very best places to watch a basketball game in the NBA—the three that are typically called out are Madison Square Garden, the Staples Center and what will be known going forward as Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
Fuson, Raines and their team are building upon the legacies of previous leaders and visionaries that made the state’s capital city the sports capital of the world. Their goal is to create experiences within the experience, something new facilities have been focused on and is in line with what fans have come to expect.
“We’ve had this whole learning process, and that’s what Indianapolis has been built on,” Fuson said. “People learning and taking it forward. I think for the last 50 years or more, we’ve been dedicated to that and to wanting to make it better. Regardless of what generation you’re in, there is multigenerational love for downtown Indianapolis, and we continue to learn what people want and make changes so that more and more people of all generations will come downtown.”
Fuson went on to explain why the organization decided to renovate rather than implode the existing structure and build from scratch.
“I’ve said it for years—we built this building with great bones so we didn’t have to tear it down like so many other cities do or like we did Market Square Arena or the RCA Dome,” Fuson said. “In light of that, it’s going to be like a new building to those coming back this fall. In many cases, you won’t recognize it from when you were here at the last game in April, when we were a fully functioning building, just before we closed soon after that [due to pandemic-related shutdowns]. It will be interesting to see people’s reactions.”
Raines added, “You can’t come within three blocks of the fieldhouse and not know that we’re undergoing a significant renovation. This phase is focused on starting the plaza to the north. We took down the parking garage and are actively building the infrastructure part of that plaza, and that will continue for a full 18 months to be completed in fall of 2022.”
Enhancing the Guest Experiences
In addition to a multitude of new spaces, revamped spaces and new amenities designed to enhance the guest/fan experiences, Fuson and his team have created a space for everybody—in and out of the fieldhouse.
“There really isn’t an area in the building that we’re not significantly updating,” Raines said. “From our restrooms to concessions—we’ve added an additional nursing mothers’ room and a sensory room for guests who might need to take a break from the events and get away from the lights and sounds. That’s a best practice in the industry now.”
It’s important to note that the fieldhouse has gone completely cashless, and all tickets are now digital/mobile. Additionally, the fieldhouse has a new Grab N Go feature—in two locations—that will allow guests to go through and grab their own food, beverages and merchandise, which speeds up transactions and makes for a touchless environment. This was something that took legislative change last session because of the alcohol sales component.
Fuson added, “When it’s finished, it’s going to be dramatically different. The former box office has been redesigned to be more like a concierge area rather than a hard brick box office because our ticketing is electronic now. There are a lot of great changes that will help increase the overall experience for everybody.”
When asked if parking was part of the overall renovation project, Raines replied, “Parking is always something that’s on our minds. The garage has been updated during COVID-19, over the last 15 months. We’re doubling the width of the [pedestrian] bridge so that we will be able to screen—from a security standpoint—twice as many people that will come through here and will just be another fan enhancement once it’s completed.”
Raines also mentioned that they have incorporated new windows throughout the Main Concourse to utilize much more natural light and make it a much more open building. There is also more “flex-seating” options, and the club levels and suites have been completely overhauled. On the Krieg DeVault level, new “flex suites” have been created—the first in our market—which allow guests to use these suites as single suites or open up into 50-person party suites.
The new PointsBet Hardwood Club and ’67 Club and updated CareSource Courtside Club offer unique experiences within the overall game experience. The clubs are a mix of traditional and modern and incorporate design elements reflective of Indiana’s rich basketball tradition. The PointsBet and Hardwood Clubs are brand new, built out during this renovation. The CareSource Courtside Club was updated and renovated and now is much more exclusive with smaller capacity.
There are also 10 new Key Bank Level suites and two new loge terraces have been added, while all the suites on the Key Bank level have been modernized and updated. There is also a brand-new bar area—the Yuengling Flight Deck, at the south end of the building that also looks into the bowl.
Providing Spaces to Begin New Traditions
In addition to all the new amenities within the fieldhouse, Fuson and Raines were excited to share what’s being built OUTSIDE of the fieldhouse. The parking garage on Maryland was torn down, just north of the building, to make space for a new outdoor plaza that will be completed by fall of 2022.
The plaza will have a basketball court in the summer months and an ice-skating rink—larger than the one at Rockefeller Center—in the winter. For those of us who remember skating around the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, this will be the start of many whimsical winter and holiday traditions. You won’t need to go to Rockefeller or anywhere else to enjoy hot cocoa and ice skating with family and friends!
There will also be lots of green spaces, which will provide opportunities for public art, programs, community gatherings, basketball game viewing parties and much more.
“I think it’s going to be an important gathering space downtown,” Fuson stated. “We have the opportunity for people to come and enjoy downtown, sitting right by the arena, and to have community events, outdoor basketball games, whatever the case may be, and not have to close the street. I think it’s going to be the beginning of many new traditions here. When you tie in Georgia Street, the fact that the jail site will be developed and the fact that we have this whole corridor running from Lucas Oil Stadium, the convention center, Georgia Street and to Gainbridge Fieldhouse, we will have a really great thing going here in downtown Indianapolis. I think it is a great start to bringing people back down to enjoy [the amenities] year-round.”
All for One and One for All
In the spirit of supporting local and being good stewards of the community, Fuson and Raines emphasized the importance of not only supporting the fieldhouse and all its sporting and entertainment events, but they also spoke on the importance of Hoosiers supporting their capital city and its hotels, restaurants and businesses.
“I think a rising tide lifts all boats,” Raines stated. “People come to Indianapolis to see and experience a lot of different things. The more infrastructure that we have to support that in terms of having the best hotels, restaurants and venues, the more we are all helping each other.”
Fuson added, “We have to make sure that people feel welcome and comfortable. There’s going to be some great things happening down here—especially once the plaza is completed. This is the people’s building, it’s not just Indianapolis’ building. It’s a building to celebrate in and to make memories in. We can all look forward to more memories being made with family members and friends. And I think we need more of that. These gatherings that we do around sports and entertainment can help bring our psyche back. So, I welcome people to come back down here and celebrate getting back to life.”
Other New Additions at Gainbridge Fieldhouse
Some elements of Phase 1, which began in April 2020 and wrapped up in December
• Center-Hung Scoreboard: Welcoming fans back to the fieldhouse is the new LED center-hung scoreboard, equipped with more than 3,350 square feet of video area, two LED rings and underbelly screens. A partnership with experience design company ANC, the scoreboard is part of a digital enhancement to Bankers Life Fieldhouse that also includes more than 600 square feet of 1.5 mm fine-pitch LED in the DataBank Courtside and PointsBet Hardwood Clubs.
• Fever Locker Room: A new locker room for the Indiana Fever is among the best in the WNBA and includes amenities like a film room, larger weight room and hydrotherapy tubs.
• Renovated Visitor Locker Rooms: The visitor locker rooms, also used for teams and groups using the fieldhouse for other events throughout the year, has been updated with all new fixtures, paint and carpeting.
• Salesforce Court: The Salesforce court, which was 21 years old, boasts a brand-new playing surface and was raised to street level to not only create necessary operational space on the event level but make access to the court for community and youth events easier.
• New Kitchen: This larger kitchen on the event level includes expanded capacity, dedicated dock and storage areas and state-of-the-art equipment.
Phase 2 is primarily focused on the Main Concourse and the Krieg DeVault Level, which is where most fans will have the majority of their experiences.
All the concessions will be renovated and updated, and new food offerings will be rolled out at the end of October.
Gainbridge Fieldhouse will also unveil a celebrity chef program to give local chefs the chance to show off their product at games and events.
The Lexus Loft space on Krieg DeVault level has been expanded and renovated.
The display cases at Sections 1 and 20, which is at the top of the grand staircase in the Entry Pavilion, is being opened up into two new bar areas that will look into the bowl.
Two major components of Phase 2 are the fact that, from basically anywhere around the Main Concourse and Krieg DeVault level, there are places to stop and look into the bowl.