In 2009, the newly branded TinCaps moved into their new home in downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana. The ballpark’s naming rights were purchased by Parkview Hospital for $3 million, giving the stadium its name of Parkview Field.
Stadium Journey Magazine previously named Parkview Field as the best ballpark in minor league baseball for 2011, so I knew that this was going to be a great evening. The TinCaps seem to have done everything right when they constructed Parkview Field, and they continue to demonstrate a commitment to providing an outstanding fan experience.
When the team made the decision to change their name, they used the legend of Johnny Appleseed as their inspiration. Johnny Appleseed was indeed a real man, and he is buried in Ft Wayne (although the exact location is a matter of some dispute). The team’s logo, primary team colors (red and green), mascot (Johnny), some food items (notably the apple turnovers), and some sections of the ballpark (The Orchard is the team store) all fit nicely in the theme.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Walking the concourse at Parkview Field, you will find enough options to satisfy you for your first visit and many visits to come. I'm partial to the ¼ rack of ribs ($7.50), but they have several good BBQ options including the ¼ chicken ($7.50), BBQ sandwich ($6.25), and smoked turkey legs ($6.25). There's just something about meat on a bone that feels good at a baseball game. They also have corn on the cob ($2.50), which should be in every Midwest ballpark. I wish the TinCaps would add pickles to their BBQ menu, and I would be in absolute heaven.
There's much more. The Philly Cheesesteak ($7) is better than most, and the chicken cheesesteak looked decent, but I wasn't willing to commit the sacrilege of a non-beef Philly. Add extra cheese to it to try "The Big Nasty" ($7.75).
Manzana's, along the first base side of the concourse, serves Mexican food, with a nice selection of burritos ($7), nachos grande ($6.50), which indeed looked grande, and tacos (3 for $5).
Usual ballpark options are available, and slightly elevated both in quality and perhaps in price. Johnsonville provides the brat ($4.75). They also offer other encased meets- the Italian ($5.50 with onions and peppers), Polish ($4.75), jumbo dog ($4.75), corn dog ($2.75), and hot dog ($2.50). Cheeseburgers are $4.75, as is the vegetarian option, the black bean burger. Fries throw you a slight change-up with sweet potato wedges available ($2.75). Desserts include Edy's ice cream, and Dippin' Dots.
Pepsi is the soft drink provider, with three sizes available costing $2, $3, and $4. Bottled water will set you back $3. There are plenty of beer options with most stands selling Blue Moon, Sierra Nevada, Coors Light, Miller Lite, and Leinenkugel's ($4.75-$7). Down the third base line there are some more import options on draft- Heineken, Smithwick's, Harp, and Guinness ($7). In center field there are additional bottled options, including the local Mad Anthony's IPA or lager (12 ounces for $4.50), which is what I would recommend.
The TinCaps really did their homework when creating this park, and the seating options are varied and interesting. It starts with the typical stadium seats that stretch beyond each dugout in the lower seating section. The dark green plastic seats offer better than average legroom and cupholders. The top three rows behind home plate, known as the Legacy Seats, offer even more legroom, padded seat, 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.
The berm seating in the outfield is somewhat unique in that there is cement rows embedded with the grass, so fans have the option to roll out a blanket or sit in more of a bleacher-like setting in the outfield. There is also a smattering of beach chairs along the outfield concourse available on a first come, first serve basis.
An array of group seating and picnic options is available, and fans can access the TinCaps website for those opportunities. If you are able to sneak up to the top row of the Treetops Rooftop Party Area, then you can get some good pictures up there. Try visiting late in the game when the sun is setting, or the GE Factory Light turns on, for the best aesthetic quality.
Once you've found your seat, it's time to enjoy the game presentation. The TinCaps have the expected fun contests and games between innings, but strike a good balance between maintaining a level of entertainment without overly bombarding their patrons.
The large video board in right field (58x26) 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. I was told that they have well over 50 numbers to pull from.
I also have to give credit to the staff that I encountered. It is clear to me that well trained, and happy staff lead to a happier fan experience. I was greeted time and again by men and women in green and red who clearly like what they do.
Using a ballpark as a center piece for downtown revitalization has almost become a cliché, but there is no doubt that it is an apt condition to describe what Parkview Field has helped to accomplish in Fort Wayne. Residential areas are expanding, including a new building of apartments which will look over left field (expected to open in February 2013). Businesses are doing well, and there are several good spots to grab a bite to eat before the game or have a beer with friends afterwards.
If you head out from the North Gate in center field, walk up Webster Street until you hit Wayne Street. J.K. O'Donnell's is your average Irish pub with a good selection of burgers, sandwiches and pub food. The food is decent, although the Fishermen's Stew I tried was rather bland. They have a pretty good beer selection, and outdoor seating.
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.
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.
Parkview Field is clearly the place to be every night that the TinCaps are playing. Fort Wayne is interesting geographically in that it is essential equidistant from five Major League teams- Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, and Cincinnati Reds. I saw each team represented during my visit, as well as a good share of TinCaps gear, and a few other teams, including a Padres cap (presumably because the TinCaps are an affiliate of San Diego). This area of neutrality allows the fans to be devoted to their local minor league club, and the attendance numbers bear this out. In August 2012, the TinCaps will surpass 1.5 million fans to come to Parkview Field, in just under four seasons at their downtown park.
I overheard several fans exclaim that Parkview was a beautiful ballpark, and someone would compare it to another park (I heard references to Columbus, Toledo, Indianapolis, and Dayton during this particular visit). In each instance the conclusion was that Parkview was favored to the counterpoint.
I was impressed that the fans were able to carry the tune of Take Me Out to the Ballgame, with almost no assistance from the PA/singer. Many fans stayed for the entirety of the game, despite a poor outcome for the home team, but that may be largely due to the expected fireworks that evening.
Parkview Field can be found just a few miles from I-69, a main artery for the region. There are a few one way streets to navigate once you reach the downtown area, but it doesn't create a significant issue. If you are GPS-reliant, as I am, then you should have no trouble at all.
There is some street parking available in metered spots which are free after 5pm, but you'll probably need to be there fairly early to claim one of those, but it's worth a try, especially along Ewing Street. If unsuccessful, you can find a parking garage on Douglas Avenue, which offers a TinCaps rate of $4 for the evening. There are many other surface lots, and each carry with it a $4 price tag.
Once inside, Parkview Field is very walkable. In fact, the concourse is exactly 1/3 of a mile around, and many people use the concourse to get their exercise in. The concourse is wide, and restrooms are large, modern, and clean.
The first question I always ask myself is would I buy season tickets at this venue? The answer for Parkview Field is an adamant yes. In fact, I would likely buy several partial season plans just so I can experience each aspect of the seating at this ballpark. This remains one of my favorite sports venues to visit, and is at the top of my minor league baseball parks. The Tincaps have captured all of the essential elements of a great experience. They have good food, great atmosphere, friendly staff, comfortable seating, a happening location, and easy access. Best of all, they do it for a very reasonable price. Tickets start at $5, and the most expensive seat for a single game is only $12.50.
Parkview Field truly is a part of its community. The gates are open most days starting at 7am, and they even open a concession stand to sell wraps and drinks to people that may visit the park to walk the concourse, or just come on their lunch break, or to read a good book.
Although this is a new ballpark, the history of baseball in Fort Wayne is shown on numerous signs around the ballpark paying tribute to the many teams that have called the city home. Look for the tribute to the Fort Wayne Daisies of the women's professional league (think A League of Their Own), the minor league "Negro League" team known as the Colored Giants, as well as the numerous semi-pro teams. There are also tributes to Fort Wayne natives like former commissioner Ford Frick, MLB manager Eric Wedge, and former greats of the ball club like Jake Peavy, Torii Hunter, Joakim Soria, and AJ Pierzynski.
The outfield wall is interesting both because it is asymmetrical, and also because of the varied heights of the walls. The distances from home plate to home run are from left to right 336-374-400-383-318, with the wall height varied from 10-15 feet.
A final extra point to the Bad Apple Dancers, who really do their best to augment the show that's presented. The idea of the ground crew doubling as the dance team is not unique to the TinCaps, but these guys certainly take the art to new heights.
Even mediocre parks, stadiums, and arenas are worth visiting. There are good experiences to be found all over the country. However, the truly great venues are worth going out of your way to see, and Parkview Field, home of the Fort Wayne TinCaps, is a great example of a ballpark you need to see. If you love baseball, or if you just love life, then get this on your to do list ASAP.
Wow. Anyone who attends a Fort Wayne TinCaps game has to be left with an overwhelming feeling of pure, wow. It's hard to believe that this is a class A ball club, as everything is at least on the level with an AAA team.
If you ran a minor league team and you were taking a test on how to build a minor league park, this would be the paper you would want to cheat off of.
Let me be clear about my point- this is as good as it gets in the world of not only minor league baseball, but live sporting events in general. Run, don't walk, to Fort Wayne, Indiana to see beautiful Parkview Field.
First you'll need a little history- on Johnny Appleseed. If you thought he was a myth, you would be wrong. He was a real man, missionary, and conservationist who traveled around the Midwest and helped to plant apple trees throughout Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.
His real name was John Chapman, and whether or not he actually wore a tin pot on his head is disputed by some historians. Nonetheless it made for a good name for the Fort Wayne ball club when they re-branded for the 2009 season. You see, John Chapman spent his last days in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and is buried there, although that exact location is in dispute as well. The result is a great local theme in a fabulous venue.
Let me just say, I am a Louisville Bats fan and will always be partial to them. However, I must admit, the TinCaps to this right! A local theme, cheap tickets, cheap (high quality) food, lots of fun, and great fans. We went up for the Midwest League All Star Game last year and this year went when the Tuscon Padres were playing there. Both times have been a wonderful experience--so much so that I'm seriously considering moving to Ft Wayne when I finish school. The community is great, the baseball team is great, I try to find things wrong with Ft Wayne and the three weekends I've been up there, I can't find a thing.
A few more Extras you don't have:
1. Every Sunday home game, fans can go down on the field and get autographs from TinCaps players after the game.
2. There is a small water park for the kids far behind the batter's eye. Great fun for the kids and no worries about a fly ball hitting you.
3. The stadium is open everyday at 8 A.M. (pretty sure that's right) for people to come in and run around the concourse, have lunch, read a book, or just sit and look at the beautiful field.
Parkview Field and the TinCaps have a great thing going. If I did live there, I'd have season tickets, no doubt! If you are a baseball fan, go see this beautiful ballpark NOW! Not tomorrow or next month or next year....NOW!!
This is the best stadium I have EVER been to, well maybe Fenway Park is better, IDK, its a coin toss to see who's better. Best MILB stadium, Fenway is the best MLB,
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