There are ballparks out there that win awards – though you'd be hard-pressed to find one that's been honored as often as Parkview Field – and what they prioritize is everything but what happens on the field.
Parkview Field, which was named the No. 1 ballpark experience by Stadium Journey for a fourth consecutive year, makes baseball the focus more than any Ferris wheel, roller coaster, giveaway or mascot (sorry, Johnny TinCap) ever could.
It has taken the No. 1 ranking in six of the last seven years, finishing second in 2013 to Pensacola, Florida.
“We see a lot of scouts and executives and former major league players and they say it just looks like it's been here for 25 years or that the city was built around it,” said Mike Nutter, president of Parkview Field's primary tenant, the TinCaps Single-A baseball team. “People love the downtown field and they feel like they can come out in the heart of the city and celebrate. And a lot of what we do, a lot revolves around the baseball.
“Sometimes, at other parks, a lot of what's done is for the shock value and for promotions and giveaways, and we want to keep it classy and be ingrained in the city.”
Stadium Journey boasts a staff of 100 writers and has reviewed more than 2,600 venues in 61 countries since 2009.
The magazine cited Parkview Field's concessions, seating options and in-game promotions as reasons the ballpark has retained its top spot despite more than a dozen newer minor-league parks opening since Parkview Field did nine years ago.
“But more impressive than all these features that can be found inside Parkview Field is the effect that this ballpark has had beyond the walls, on the city of Fort Wayne,” Stadium Journey wrote.
Part of the success of Parkview Field it that it's continued to be improved under the ownership of Hardball Capital, including the additions of the 400 Club in 2013, The Summit in 2016, and new surfacing and lighting in the concourse.
“It's not stale and kind of the same old thing,” Nutter said. “Along with (the success) comes some pressure; how do you maintain that success, when there are such strong (facilities) around like Indianapolis and Toledo and our very own hockey team (the Komets) in town?
“I thought this year would be the one where they would come out and say, 'Congrats you're the second-ranked stadium,' and we would have been elated. It's tough to sustain this with the new parks coming out with the new features like new stunning scoreboards in high definition and things like that.”
Parkview Field is the only Midwest League venue in Stadium Journey's top 10 for Minor League Baseball. Stadium Journey ranked Parkview Field No. 29 overall in its top 100 stadium experiences in all of North America for 2017. Other Indiana venues on the list are Lucas Oil Stadium (No. 5), Notre Dame Stadium (No. 22), Hinkle Fieldhouse (No. 27), Victory Field (No. 59) and Bankers Life Fieldhouse (No. 94). Wrigley Field is ranked No. 1 overall.
The TinCaps also won “Field of the Year” (Sports Turf Managers Association) for all of professional baseball in 2017; the John H. Johnson President's Award, Minor League Baseball's most prestigious honor, for overall organizational excellence in 2016; and Minor League Baseball's John H. Moss Community Service Award in 2015.
“I saw this week that (Business Insider) called Fort Wayne the best place to live in Indiana,” Nutter said. “I vividly remember a time many years ago when Fort Wayne was voted one of the among the fattest cities and dumbest cities – not that anyone here believed that – but it was easy to pick on us. It's really cool that the accolades have gone the other way. “
The TinCaps will open up their 10th season at Parkview Field on April 7 against the Lake County Captains. Fans can get ticket information at TinCaps.com or by calling 260-482-6400. Tickets go on sale Feb. 21.