When Bankers Life Fieldhouse was built in 1999, designers imagined the facility as a closed bowl, meaning all seats experience clear sightlines to the court, but seating is not open to the concourses.
Since the Fieldhouse’s construction more than two decades ago, Mel Raines, Executive Vice President of Corporate Communications for PS&E, said the Pacers discovered that the younger generations of fans would rather explore different areas within a building during events than park themselves in their assigned sections for consecutive hours.
“We found that some of our younger fans in their 20s and 30s aren’t going to sit in their seat for two or three hours and just watch the game,” Raines said. “They want to get up, they want to meet a friend maybe at a bar and overlook the floor for a while and go back to their seat. They want to move around the building a little more and socialize more than the traditional way.”
Non-existent before the renovation, each of the two new sideline clubs open to guests sitting in the center sections of the Fieldhouse will incorporate design elements reflective of Indiana’s basketball tradition.
A space that formerly operated as the Fever locker room on one side of the court will transform into PointsBet Hardwood Club and will resemble a high-end sports bar. Inside, wooden flooring from the old Market Square Arena court will frame the biggest LED screen in the building aside from the center-hung scoreboard.
On the other side of the court, 67 Club will more closely resemble a speakeasy within the Fieldhouse than a modern sports bar, Raines said. The 67 Club will provide a welcoming environment to fans who want to get out of their seats and explore the Fieldhouse, while offering a slightly different experience than PointsBet Hardwood Club.
“Bankers Life Fieldhouse is, and pretty much has always been, a living museum to basketball in Indiana,” said Andy Mallon, Executive Director of Indianapolis’s Capital Improvement Board. “I think we started off with a good concept and really promoted it, and I think with these new changes – especially the two new clubs – we’ve taken that to the next level.”
Freeing up the requisite space to add two new sideline clubs demanded that the Pacers practice court move up a level and the Fever locker room relocate under the newly elevated practice court. Raines said the practice court’s ceiling was so high initially that Pacers Sports & Entertainment was able to keep the ceiling as is, move the practice court up a level, and gain about 7,000 square feet of space inside the building during the process.
The Fever’s new locker room includes amenities like a film room, larger weight room, and hydro-therapy tubs – making it one of the premier locker rooms in the WNBA.
Perhaps the most recognizable feature of Bankers Life is its massive, west-facing window that brings in a wealth of natural light to the facility and provides balcony guests with sweeping views of downtown Indianapolis. Phase Three of the renovation includes plans for a new standing room only platform that will replace the top seven rows of the west-side balcony to give fans a new way to experience events at the Fieldhouse.
“Again, the standing platform is another area where we’ll have something we can’t offer today,” Raines said. “You could literally stand and watch an entire game or concert from up there, buy your ticket to be there and look over downtown while you’re attending the event.”
Equipped with more than 3,350 square feet of video area, two LED rings circled around its top and bottom, and underbelly screens, Bankers Life Fieldhouse’s new $4.3 million center-hung scoreboard creates a more immersive gameday experience. Players on the court and fans sitting in lower sections will enjoy clearer views of the center scoreboard from added underbelly screens, and expanded screens all around the scoreboard will leave more room to display in-game statistics and other entertainment during events.
The area directly north of Bankers Life Fieldhouse currently occupied by a large parking garage will expand as part of the renovation to become a flexible, year-round destination that supports a variety of community events.
Raines said the plaza will expand mostly to the north and slightly to the east and west. In the winter, a sunken ice-skating rink much like the one at Rockefeller Center will allow visitors to ice skate in the middle of the plaza, in the heart of Downtown Indianapolis. During warmer months, Raines said PS&E will transform the open-air space to host events like outdoor basketball games, community movie nights, sunrise yoga sessions, and small concerts.
Raines said the plaza is designed to function as a flexible venue that can support multiple activities at the same time, so three or four events could run simultaneously in different areas within the plaza without interfering with each other.
To provide context on the role that Bankers Life’s expanded plaza might play in hosting downtown events, Raines compared the future event space to the nearby Pan Am Plaza – an area that hosts community events ranging from Big Ten pep rallies to live ESPN television airings.
“When we have our outdoor plaza done, I think we could be a part of events in downtown that we currently aren’t,” Raines said. “If you think about the Big Ten Football Championship, we don’t play a big role in that event. But on the day of the game when they’re activating all of downtown, our plaza could be part of that.”
Managed by Melody Park, Vice President of Facility Operations at the Indiana Pacers, Lori Miser, Vice President at PS&E, and Raines, this $360 million Bankers Life Fieldhouse renovation represents a rare example of a project of this scope being guided by an entirely woman-led management team, Raines said. Raines said PS&E’s primary goal in this project is to make Bankers Life Fieldhouse an even more enjoyable destination for NBA fans to experience games.
Raines said, “Our hope is to really create this fear of missing out that it doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 80; we have something for you when you come to the Fieldhouse. We have a place you love to sit, a concession stand you love to go to, a club you really enjoy, and you don’t want to be home for an event, you want to be at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.”