The Fieldhouse Turns 20

Rendering of proposed changes to Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Courtesy Pacers Sports & Entertainment

Welcome to Your-Name-Here Fieldhouse. Have oh, say, $80 million to $120 million? Sweet—you can emblazon your name on the stadium for the next 20 years. As of press time, one of the highest-profile signage spots in the city is still without a sponsor, CNO Financial Group’s deal with the Pacers having expired in June.

This is a full-court face lift. An outdoor ice rink like the one at Rockefeller Center in New York! A fancy new welcome pavilion! Observation decks up top (hello, Victory Field views)! There’s a lot on the docket between February 2020 and October 2022. “Not much will remain untouched,” says Mel Raines, who helms facilities operations for Pacers Sports & Entertainment.

Total cost: $360 million. That’s just over 17 times Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo’s salary this season—but less than the $387.2 million LeBron James will have earned in his career by the end of the 2021–2022 season.

You won’t be kicking off June with Justin Timberlake. At least, not at the Fieldhouse. For the next two years, the arena will forgo summer events while it gets its glow-up.

And The Indiana Fever are taking a trip north. Since most of the work will take place when the Pacers are off—and the Fever are normally the ones hitting the court—Butler University’s Hinkle Fieldhouse stepped up to host them for the next two seasons and part of a third. At 9,100 seats, Hinkle has about half the 20,000-seat capacity of Bankers Life. So the stands will be fuller for the average 6,311 fans who show up to Fever games these days.

The deal locks in the Pacers for the long haul. The renovations are part of an $800 million deal that will keep the Pacers in Indy for the next 25 years. But that’s just the beginning. “The plan is for the team to remain in Indiana forever,” Raines says.

An events plaza, swankier suites, and an ice-skating rink are all part of the game plan.

They’ll start small. Visitors in town for the 2021 NBA All-Star Game probably won’t even notice much of a difference. The heavy lifting comes after the league’s blue bloods leave: breaking ground on that Rockefeller-worthy skating rink, adding an outdoor terrace overlooking Pennsylvania Street, and spiffing up the suites.

The Fieldhouse folks want to strike fear into your heart. Specifically, a fear that everyone else is having more fun than you if you don’t show up. An outdoor plaza near the Pennsylvania Street entrance will host events year-round, from movie screenings and farmers markets in the summer to ice-skating in the winter. “What we really want to do is to create a strong sense of FOMO,” Raines says.

No more fumbling for your phone flashlight in the nosebleeds. The Fieldhouse will remove the top eight rows of seats to create horseshoe-shaped gathering spaces, plus observation decks ideal for sunset-gramming. “The top of the building will start to come alive,” Raines says.

Night off? Not likely. Count on more events—and greater variety. “With the new plaza, we can have events going on indoors and outdoors simultaneously,” says Brent Rockwood, head of corporate, community, and public relations at Pacers Sports & Entertainment. “We want to be busy every night of the week.”