Parkview Field – Fort Wayne TinCaps
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Tip of the TinCap
The Fort Wayne TinCaps franchise has been a member of the Midwest League since their inception as the Wizards in 1993. The Wizards played in a concrete behemoth in Northern Fort Wayne named Memorial Stadium. While the fans turned out in impressive numbers to support the Wizards, it became apparent that this ballpark, often described in terms such as “bland” and “ordinary,” was outliving its usefulness. An agreement was made in 2007 to build “the most innovative minor league stadium in America.”
Along with the new ballpark in downtown Fort Wayne came a rebranding of the team. In a tip of the cap (pun intended), to local legend John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, the team was re-named the TinCaps. Chapman spent his final years in Fort Wayne, and is buried in the city. Although there is debate amongst scholars whether or not Johnny Appleseed actually wore a tin cap on his head while travelling the country planting apple trees, the legend persists.
Initial reaction to the rebranding was mixed, but the logo was an immediate success, being named the best new logo in the minor leagues by MiLB.com. The TinCaps have integrated the apple theme to all aspects of their operation, from the team colors (green and red) to the food served at the ballpark (the Apple Cart), to the team store (the Orchard). If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, one visit to Parkview Field will leave you in good health until your next physical.
In contrast to the mixed reaction experienced by the rebranding, Parkview Field, sponsored by local corporation Parkview Health, has received nothing but positive reviews. In addition to being named the best minor league ballpark experience by Stadium Journey in both 2011 and 2012, the ballpark and organization have collected numerous awards and accolades since moving downtown in 2009 (you can view the entire list of awards received here).
A team with a facility as impressive as Parkview Field could easily just open the gates and let the fans roll in. The TinCaps organization does nothing of the sort. This organization strives to offer fans one of the best game day experiences anywhere. This commitment is evident from the top of the organization to the game-day employees working throughout the ballpark. From the moment you step foot in Parkview Field you will find a dedication to customer service that is unmatched not only in minor league baseball, but in all of sports.
Food & Beverage 5
The concourse that circumnavigates Parkview Field measures 1/3 of a mile, and you are going to need to circle the field a few times to walk off the calories you take in while sampling the incredible amount of food available here. Of course, the menu stays true to the apple theme, under the leadership of Executive Chef and Culinary Director Scott Kammerer. The clearest example of the apple’s influence on the menu can be seen at the Apple Cart, located near home plate on the third base line. The Apple Cart serves up some of the best (and biggest) desserts in baseball, including apple dumplings, apple won tons, fried apples, caramel apples, apple crisp (served in a plastic mini-helmet), and more.
The apple theme continues throughout the concourse at stands such as Manzana’s Mexican Grill (where they put apple in the mole sauce), Bases Loaded BBQ (where they put apple juice in the BBQ sauce), and Center Field Grill (where they glaze the grilled chicken with apple).
Beer options are plentiful with local choices from Mad Anthony, which has a brewery just a couple of miles down the road. You can also find more apple alcoholic beverages if you want to keep the theme going including Redd’s Apple Ale, and Angry Orchard (a gluten free beer).
There are more gluten free options which are listed in their game day program, and can be found at the concession stand to the third base side of home plate, and also the BBQ Cart (13 options in all).
The latest addition to the TinCaps apple-infused menu is “The Big Apple” group dessert. For $30, fans can share four helpings of Apple Crisp, four homemade Apple Dumplings, five scoops of vanilla ice cream, all drizzled with hot caramel and garnished with apple slices, served in a full-sized batting helmet. Intended to be a group dessert, many foolhardy TinCaps fans have attempted to finish this monstrosity off by themselves.
Prices are reasonable, the quality is excellent, and best of all the customer service is second to none. The team even encourages concessionaires to submit their own ideas for concession items, adding to team atmosphere of the staff.
One of the more interesting aspects of Parkview Field is how the ballpark is able to integrate several distinct seating areas without making the ballpark feel like a bunch of disparate neighborhoods. Parkview Field features several unique seating areas, such as the Treetops seating, located on the top of the Lincoln Financial Event Center in right field. If you get an opportunity to take in part of the game from here, you will enjoy some incredible views of the action.
The seats directly behind home plate are located at ground level, without a wall between the fans and the field. It’s a unique vantage point not available in many places. Fans looking to spread out a little can choose between two berm areas, one terraced, and one not. Adirondack chairs are spread out along the outfield concourse for fans looking for a seat to use while keeping an eye on their children running around on the berm below. There are standing room areas throughout the ballpark, complete with drink rails.
Fans attending in groups can sit in the Huntington Picnic Pavilion, filled with picnic tables, or the field boxes down the left field line, featuring high-top bar tables and chairs. It’s a great area to sit if you want to enjoy the company of the people you are attending the game with. It can be very frustrating when your group is sitting in a row, meaning that you have to lean over a person or two to talk to someone not sitting right next to you. At these tables, this is not an issue. It’s a great area to socialize and watch the game in a non-traditional setting. The home run porch in left field offers excellent views of the action from atop the 12 foot high wall.
Added to Parkview Field in 2013 is the 400 Club, named for its distance from home plate. The club doubles as the batters eye, and is open to groups and functions, both during games and throughout the year. The 400 Club offers outstanding views of the action below, and the shaded, angled glass windows ensure that there is no glare for the lucky fans taking in the action from this vantage point.
As impressive as the seating options are, the game day presentation is equally impressive. All the typical between inning games, contests, and giveaways are here, but the TinCaps staff do a good job at keeping a balance between entertaining the occasional visitor to Parkview Field and not bombarding the hardcore fan with unwanted distraction.
The large video board in right field (58×26) is the focus for many between inning distractions. Another star of the show is the “Bad Apple Dancers.” Essentially this is the grounds crew that will drag the field, then perform a choreographed dance number at the end of the 6th inning. This foursome is a lot of fun, but obviously serious about their craft. Rumor has it that they have well over 50 numbers to pull from.
Should you be visiting Parkview Field with some children who are getting bored with the action on the field and are having trouble sitting still, you have options for them as well. A kids’ play area is located in left field, complete with a climbing wall, slide, and bouncy house. There is a fountain in center field, which is a very popular destination on hot summer days, and a stage complete with bands performing before the game.
The best aspect of the game day atmosphere here is the enthusiastic and helpful staff at Parkview Field. Many teams claim that they do their all to make for a better fan experience, but the staff here in Fort Wayne clearly take this task to heart with all they do. The staff, from the full-time front office staffers to the game day workers are well trained, appear to like what they do, and go the extra mile to make every fan’s visit to Parkview Field an enjoyable one.
When a team is looking to build a new downtown ballpark, they will unfailingly point to the fact that a new ballpark will be a centerpiece for downtown revitalization. While whether or not a new ballpark brings in other businesses to a downtown area is open to much debate, there is little doubt that Parkview Field has helped to accomplish this feat in downtown Fort Wayne. Residential areas and hotels are expanding in the area, most notably the Harrison apartments that have arisen just past Parkview Field’s left field wall. New restaurants have come, and long-standing area businesses are enjoying great success as well.
Fort Wayne does not have a reputation as a culinary destination, but the downtown area has a surprising number of options for the ballpark traveler to choose from. O’Reilly’s Irish Bar & Restaurant is located in the Harrison apartment complex and even has an outdoor seating area that is adjacent to the left field concourse, with some limited views of the game action.
A little further on your walk and you can find 816 Pint & Slice. It’s an unassuming space, serving up pints of beers and slices of pizza. It’s a simple premise, but the food is good, and the beer is interesting. They also have TVs on in case you want to keep up with any of the sporting events of interest.
If you don’t mind driving a couple of miles, then I would recommend a stop at Mad Anthony’s. Named for the town’s namesake, General “Mad” Anthony Wayne, this brewpub serves up delicious local brews, and surprisingly good food as well. It continues to be my favorite stop in Fort Wayne, as I always feel like local beer pairs beautifully with the local professional team.
Of course, no trip to downtown Fort Wayne would be complete without a late-night trip to Powers Hamburgers. This tiny shack, located just a block from Parkview Field, specializes in slider type burgers served up loaded with onions. It’s a perfect nightcap after either a TinCaps game or a night on the town in Fort Wayne.
Also worth checking out near the ballpark is the Fort Wayne Firefighters Museum or the Embassy Theatre if you want to take in a show. Nearby hotels include the Courtyard Fort Wayne Downtown or Hilton Fort Wayne, both within easy walking distance of the ballpark.
Fort Wayne has finished in the top 3 in attendance in the Midwest League in every season since moving to Parkview Field, trailing only the incredible numbers of the Dayton Dragons, and trading places with the Kane County Cougars on a year-to-year basis. The TinCaps average around 5,700 fans per game each year, and are on pace to set a team record in 2014, as they are averaging over 5,900 fans per game as of this writing. With the capacity of Parkview Field listed as 8,100, this means that you will be able to find a seat fairly easily when coming to the ballpark, but that you won’t be sitting all by yourself at a TinCaps game.
Despite the team’s affiliation with the geographically distant San Diego Padres, the affiliation is a strong one, lasting for the past 15 years. As a result, many of the fans here know the players by their first names, and are very supportive of their efforts. There’s also the usual mix of minor league fans that go to the ballpark as a way to have a night out. Fans are friendly and are willing to chat if given the opportunity.
Despite Parkview Field’s downtown location and the lack of a nearby highway, it is fairly easy to find. Depending on which direction you are traveling from, you can find Parkview Field a few miles from I-69 or I-469. The streets of Fort Wayne are easily navigated, and traffic does not seem to be an issue around most games. Beware of a few one-way streets in the vicinity of the ballpark.
Fans arriving early to a TinCaps game may be able to find some free on-street parking in the area around the ballpark. If unsuccessful, there are over 2,100 parking spots in surface lots or parking garages within four blocks of Parkview Field. These lots and garages carry a $3 price tag, a very reasonable price tag for easy access parking. If a five minute walk is too much for you (and I can sympathize with you here), the TinCaps operate three lots along Brackenridge Street, which will cost you $4 for a TinCaps game.
Once inside, Parkview Field features a very wide, very walkable concourse. In fact, the concourse is exactly 1/3 of a mile around, and many locals use the concourse to get their exercise in. The park is open during the day so residents can use the concourse as an exercise track. Restrooms are large, modern, and clean, and more than large enough to handle any TinCaps crowd.
Return on Investment 5
For as little as $5 you can grab a seat on the berm or find a standing spot along the drink rail in right field. If you decide to splurge, the best tickets will only cost you $12.50. With the variety of seating options at Parkview Field, there is something here for everyone.
The lower seating section consists of dark green plastic seats with better than average legroom and cup holders ($9). The top three rows behind home plate, known as the Legacy Seats, offer even more legroom, padded seats, drink rails and wait service. It is real luxury, and at only $12.50 a seat it is affordable to almost all fans.
Down the left field line, there are high top tables with four chairs which also have wait service ($36 per table). This would be a great spot for a small family, or small group outing, and again feels luxurious, but at only $9 per person. It’s a great alternative for fans wanting a more social environment than traditional seating can offer.
Parking can be had in lots right across the street from the ballpark for only $4, and for $3 in lots nearby. Food prices are also right in line with other ballparks in the area, and well worth paying for food of this quality. A night at Parkview Field is an affordable option for families in the Fort Wayne area.
An interesting feature at Parkview Field that hasn’t been mentioned yet are the batting cages, which are located right on the main concourse. Fans who arrive early enough can watch players loosen up for the game while eating their apple turnovers. Once the game begins, fans can take their turn at bat and take a few swings for a few bucks.
Another extra point is awarded for the variety of seating areas that are mixed seamlessly without feeling cobbled together. There are areas for families, for children to stretch their legs, for group outings, formal affairs, fans looking for a more social night out, and yes, the hard-core baseball fan as well. Take a walk around the concourse, and you will get a distinct feeling from different areas of the ballpark. If visiting Parkview Field for the first time, check out as many of these “neighborhoods” as you can. You won’t be sorry.
Speaking of this concourse, the walk around Parkview Field earns another extra point. The bond between the greater Fort Wayne community and the TinCaps is so strong that the team opens up the ballpark during the day for fans to circle the concourse and get some exercise on their lunch breaks. At exactly 1/3 of a mile in circumference, you can get a quick workout in while taking in the scenery. If you are walking the concourse during a game, you may find a band playing, kids climbing rock walls or playing in a fountain, or residents of the adjacent apartment building sitting on their back porches taking in the action. This doesn’t even take into account all the usual sights, sounds, and smells you come across at any typical ballpark. You almost don’t need a seat to enjoy a game at Parkview Field.
The consistent and innovative use of the Johnny Appleseed theme earns this field another extra point. It wouldn’t seem like the apple would lend itself to an overall branding like this, but in Fort Wayne, it works. Don’t forget to try some items from the Apple Cart. You won’t be disappointed.
Finally, one last extra point is awarded to the staff and management of the Fort Wayne TinCaps. More than any other staff that I have ever encountered, the staff here are committed to customer service, and to continuing to improve their already fantastic fan experience. This team is not content to rest on their substantial laurels, and are constantly looking to improve the gameday experience for the Fort Wayne fans.
The experience at Parkview Field is what all minor league baseball teams should strive for. Great food, great seating options, a great neighborhood, great entertainment, and great customer service are all present here on a nightly basis. Parkview Field on its own would be one of the finer facilities in minor league baseball. Couple that with a major league organization and customer service, and you have an unbeatable combination. Parkview Field should be on the short list for any ballpark chaser traveling through the Midwest.
125 W Jefferson Blvd
Fort Wayne, IN 46802
Marriott Grand Wayne Convention Center
1150 S Harrison St
Fort Wayne, IN 46802
Hilton Fort Wayne
1020 S Calhoun St
Fort Wayne, IN 46802
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