INDIANAPOLIS — If you haven’t been by Bankers Life Fieldhouse lately, you may be in for a surprise the next time you’re downtown.
Construction season is underway, and the cheer of fans has been replaced with the roar of heavy machinery in what the Pacers Sports & Entertainment group says will become the “Fieldhouse of the Future,” paving the way for something everyone, not just basketball fans, can enjoy.
“We’re creating a space that we hope when you come to Indianapolis, is a must-see stop,” Executive Vice President of Pacers Sports & Entertainment Mel Raines said. “It’s where you wanna get your selfie. It’s where you wanna post something on social media. It’s where you wanna tell people when you got home that you stopped by this beautiful plaza, and it’s a must-see when they come to town also.”
Where once stood a parking garage along East Maryland Street will soon stand something superior. It’s hard to imagine, but out of the garage’s rubble will emerge a plaza compete with murals, an outdoor basketball court and even an ice skating rink.
“It’s really opened us up to downtown. I mean, we were blocked by that visually, and it just makes it already seem so much bigger,” Raines said. “It was hard to envision just on paper, and now with it cleared out largely, and they’re almost done with that, you can tell that this skating rink is going to be bigger than Rockefeller Center, and how many more things we’ll be able to do as we have events here or things are happening downtown that we can be a part of that we weren’t a part of before.”
Bankers Life Fieldhouse’s renovations began four years ago, when ownership developed a $360 million, three phase project to bring the 21-year-old fieldhouse into the future.
“It’s certainly harder to renovate an existing building, any building, than it is to start from scratch,” Raines said. “But we have this iconic, beloved, building that most people think is the best place to see a basketball game in the world, and we wanted to make it better.”
Inspiration came from icons like Wrigley Field in Chicago and innovation from newly renovated venues built around the same time, like State Farm Arena in Atlanta.
“So we’ve seen everything from the newest to ones that are about our age that have renovated, and we really think for our building — we’ve taken this wonderful building and made it just a little bit better and added some things for every fan by the time we’re done,” Raines said. “There will really be a FOMO [fear of missing out] will be here. You will want to be at the event, and whether you’re 16 or you’re 80, we’re gonna have something for you here.”
But the renovations don’t end outside. Raines says much of what you’re used to seeing inside the entry pavilion will be removed and refurbished.
“We don’t need bulletproof glass anymore at our box-office. We’re mobile tickets now. So it will be a better experience for the fans to interact with our staff,” Raines said. “All of what you see will be removed and pushed back. It’ll be much more open, but all this work takes time.”
The Indiana Fever, who have been displaced for the remainder of the ’21 season, will complete their games at nearby Indiana Farmers Coliseum starting June 12.
When fans are welcomed back inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the start of the Pacers season next fall, it’ll start looking like the “Fieldhouse of the Future,” but the dust inside won’t have settled just yet and won’t for another two and a half months.
“Unfortunately, the kind of work we’re doing you can’t do around events. There will still be some construction, but it won’t affect what they’re watching in the bowl or anything like that, but they will still see construction inside,” Raines said. “It’ll be the fall of ’22 when everything is done both inside and out, but largely inside will be done earlier than the plaza will be about a month and half behind when we’re done with interior work.”
While construction is underway, the box-office has moved from inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse to the Pacers Sports & Entertainment building along E. Maryland St.
The team shop will remain closed until renovations are completed. Orders can still be fulfilled online.