UH Can Learn From Indy’s Field
Wednesday - August 08, 2007
What can Indianapolis teach Honolulu about baseball?
Indianapolis is not only the home of the Super Bowl champion Colts and the NBA Pacers, plus the headquarters of the NCAA - which I visited recently in my role as the PacWest commissioner. But it’s also the home of what many in baseball call “The Best Minor League Ballpark in America.”
The folks at Sports Illustrated called it that. So did the writers at Baseball America.
The little baseball stadium, located just a stone’s throw from both the NCAA headquarters and the RCA Dome, is called Victory Field. That has a great ring to it, doesn’t it?
So what does an after-work visit to Victory Field have to do with Hawaii? Well, in my mind, it means “consider the possibilities.”
As we all know, Hawaii’s No. 1 baseball venue is Les Murakami Stadium, long considered one of the most picturesque college baseball parks in the country. But as great as Hawaii’s ballpark has been over the years, local fans will agree that Murakami Stadium is in need of renovation.
That’s where small ballparks like Victory Field come in.
Victory Field is larger than Murakami Stadium in seating capacity, 15,000 to 4,000, but I’m not talking about seating. I’m talking about ambience. Victory Field has it. Murakami Stadium needs more than the trade winds and the view of Diamond Head.
The first thing I noticed about Victory Field was its creative entrance. Fans can enter from outside centerfield as well as behind the more traditional third-baseline entrance. The view of the field and the two-tiered stands
from that centerfield vantage point is spectacular.
Also, beyond the fences are two picnic areas and what is called “festival-style” seating. That means you can sit on the lawns that hover above the left-field, centerfield and right-field fences. I saw hundreds of fans laying their blankets down or just plopping down on the soft blades of grass to enjoy the Indianapolis Indians play the Durham Bulls in Triple-A baseball action. Families especially seemed to enjoy this informality, and I saw children everywhere.
The shape of the playing field has a kind of Camden Yards affect. Fans who watch the American League Baltimore Orioles know what I mean;
essentially the outfield seats are angled so that they hug the foul lines. You’re so close to the action, you really feel like you’re a part of the game.
Additionally, a fan can circumnavigate the entire inside stadium. I moved from sitting behind home plate to the lawn area above and behind the right-field fence and then continued around to the third-base line. I never had a bad seat. The concession stands were also clean and plentiful, and they had some creative foodstuffs and snacks. Let’s say I didn’t go away hungry.
Now, all of this might be too expensive for Hawaii to build. But not every idea is off the charts cost-wise.
The one amenity that I firmly believe could be added to Murakami Stadium is lawn seating. There’s plenty of room available beyond the left-field fence
in Hawaii where dirt could be brought in and a lawn planted for spectacular festival seating. Just think of the Waikiki Shell and you’ll know exactly why this would make for a great experience for baseball viewing.
The centerfield entrance is also not too cost-prohibitive. Imagine the possibilities of your family walking up to a second outfield entrance with your lawn chairs and blankets, all ready for a great day or night of watching the baseball ‘Bows.
It’s all possible with creative thinking and a willingness to move with the times. They’ve done it in Indianapolis.
Why not Hawaii?
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