Victory Field, Indians prepare to play ball after 619 days out of the park in pandemic

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indianapolis Indians home opener at Victory Field is set for May 11.

The first six games and perhaps more will have 25% of its capacity — 12,230 fixed seats and 14,230 lawn and standing room — as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Fans will have to follow a new set of safety protocols when the gates finally reopen at Victory Field.

When the lights turn on opening night at Victory Field, it’ll be 619 days since the Indians last sat in their dugout. The last baseball game played at Victory Field was in August 2019.

During the pandemic, Victory Field hosted a slew of events that they never could have done during the regular season. “Fans got to experience this ballpark in a way that they may never get to experience in that way again,” said Cheyne Reiter, director of communications for the Indians.

The way fans experience games will change, from the new digital-ticketing process to the way they pay for $4 Victory Dog. “It is just again a totally different mindset with every little detail.”

“It is all cashless at concession stands. Debit and credit cards are the only accepted forms of payment,” Reiter said.

Despite games being outdoors, fans will still need to wear masks at all times.

“The word that really stands out is ‘active.’ You have to actively eating or drinking to take that mask down. The second you finish that popcorn bucket or that drink has run dry, it is time to pull the mask back up,” Reiter said.

Fans will not get field access this year, and there won’t be any fan interaction with coaches and players.

“If one player gets COVID, it could shut the entire operation down,” Reiter said.

Everybody’s favorite big, red bear, Rowdie, will still be making his rounds. “How (Rowdie) interacts with fans will probably look a little bit different. Where he can go in terms of on the field might be restricted from stepping on the field at all as the players and coaches get here to town,” Reiter said.

The Victory Field staff has already spaced out the available seating to comply with social distancing and capacity restrictions.

“When you see 14,000-plus in here and now we go to just under 3,500 for this first home stand per night, it is going to look a little different. The 3,500 here is there are socially distanced and spread throughout the stadium that is a Tuesday in April when it is 35 degrees in a normal year,” Reiter said.

Season-ticket holders will get first dibs on seats before the general public. Fans can buy ticket packages before single-game tickets go on sale to the general public Wednesday.

Plus, MyINDY-TV 23 will air 35 home games, with the first on opening night May 11.