Options for Bush Stadium

An aerial view of Bush Stadium from the south. Date unknown.

Since its opening in 1996, Victory Field has received much praise as the home of the Indianapolis Indians.  And rightfully so.  It is a beautiful ballpark in an urban setting that has helped link the central part of downtown to White River State Park.

But the one downside to the new ballpark is what was left behind: Bush Stadium.  After fourteen years, it is still unknown what will become of the historic stadium.  The Indianapolis Star had some information on two different proposals for the property.

The most recent proposal from John Watson calls for the salvaging of Bush Stadium’s façade and incorporating it into a residential development.  Given the proximity to IUPUI, I’m certain the apartments would be put to use.  And it is only two blocks away from single family residences, so residential development isn’t a bad proposal. Multi-family development, in fact, could be part of a catalyst to provide more life along 16th Street and Indiana Avenue.

There are no drawings or plans that I have found, so I can’t get into a discussion about the proposals design.  But we do know the some of the stadium will be demolished.  And I’m not a big fan of this sort of faux-preservation.  Yes, it is better to save the façade than to lose it forever.  I just feel that there are opportunities to make use of the entire stadium and property.

Which is why the proposal by Ryan Fitzpatrick to reuse the stadium and convert the property into a home for green development and technologies sounds intriguing.  Again, I haven’t seen any drawings for this proposal either, but it sounds like they would keep the ballpark intact.  This proposal would be defined as an “outside the box” development.  The commercial and office components would fit in with the immediate surroundings.  There is a question as to how realistic this proposal is.  Certainly the apartment proposal is a safer bet; but safer isn’t always better.

I still hold on to the notion that Bush Stadium could be used again as a sports and assembly venue.  In IUPUI’s 2009 master plan, very little thought and development went into the planning for university land between the White River and 16th Street.  One drawing shows the land along the northside of the river being home to sports fields for student use.

IUPUI continues to transform itself away from being a commuter campus to a campus that is used and inhabited 24/7 by students.  Part of that change is the need for things to do.  And athletics plays a big part of campus life and university identity.  Bush Stadium could be used by the stadium for baseball, softball, and/or soccer programs.  If stands are built along the former right field wall, a soccer field that runs north to south could be built and jointly used by a professional soccer club.  A stage at the north end of the field would allow Bush Stadium to be used as a concert venue (Toyota Park in Chicago has this sort of layout).

Of course, some people would scoff at the notion of a soccer stadium. Has anyone considered using the old stadium as part of a new basketball venue for IUPUI?  My point is that I truly wonder how much honest consideration has been given to continuing Bush Stadium’s long time athletic use.  And that would be my preferred option.

What do you think?  Do you feel that Bush Stadium still has a place in the local athletics scene?  Is it time to move on?  And home important is it to retain the old stands and field in its redevelopment?

Comments 12

  • I’m all for finding a use for Bush Stadium, but I really wonder if it’s not past the point of revival. The photos the Star ran a while back were pretty rough. I like the idea of apartments that save the facade. The soccer stadium would be a reasonable idea, except that there’s a perfectly good soccer stadium right across the street that doesn’t need any repairs or renovations.

    Most of the land inside Fall Creek is now developed, so it’s only natural for IUPUI housing to expand along Indiana Ave toward 16th street. You can already see this in the construction projects that are happening now. It seems like, as that little “peninsula” south of 16th and between the river and Fall Creek fills in, there will come a time when the land Bush Stadium sits on will be very valuable, if it’s not already.

  • I think Bush Stadium has been allowed to remain unused for such a long period of time so the city would be allowed to totally demolish it to make way for something unproductive. Being on the National Register, it’s awfully funny that there hasn’t been any upkeep done. Instead, we’ll garner a few thousand bucks to park oil-dripping, fluid releasing junker vehicles on the “green space” inside the gates. Eco-friendly this city is not, unless it helps with publicity and large funding projects. I say that with the proximity of that neighborhood is the most beautiful view of the city as it overlooks South Grove golf course. Riverside Drive is a fantastic and underestimated area with great homes. Multi-family housing at the Bush Stadium site would only degrade values of the area. Enough with housing already, put something in there to build a sense of community. An open air marketplace, a park, a restaurant….. anything but housing!

  • Has anyone been to Minneapolis for their Farmer’s Market? They have a beautiful, central set-up that is designed to be a covered market with farm-fresh food, arts & crafts, and artisan oils, breads, and more. The point is, it’s not something temporary. They built it knowing this would be the one, main, central farmer’s market in the city. And it’s beautiful.

    I’d love to see a proposal to turn Bush Stadium into such a permanent open-air market. Instead of having dozens of smaller farmer’s markets on weekends, let all the vendors come to this central location. Because it has ample parking, suburbanites would be able to park more easily than at the downtown market. And because it’s convenient to the trails running along the river, it provides easy access for bikers and the college crowd (who couldn’t be hurt by having healthier food options).

    I’m not saying this is the best idea, becuase I don’t know, but maybe kick the idea around and test its viability. It could go a long way to revitalizing an area and putting a historic building to a good and fitting use.

  • I’ve always thought that the modern 16th Street corridor is ridiculously underutilized. A connection between downtown and the Speedway (trolley car, whatever) makes too much sense. Add in the opportunities that would provide to this venue and it makes a lot of sense. Combine that with a real effort to connect to some meaningful greenspace along the river and it’s a slam dunk. I don’t think housing would be the downfall of the area, but it isn’t the sole answer, either. The collegiate focus from the south and international flavor from the north could combine at this corridor to make something special while drawing attention to downtown and the Speedway. I fear that it will end up going the way of Tiger Stadium in Detroit or many others… I am relatively surprised that it’s not a gravel parking lot yet…

  • Scott, you are right about the stadium across the street, but it would be nice to have a larger stadium that feels less like a middle school football stadium. And I think the bones of the stadium are strong enough to warrant preservation.

    OMG, I agree with you concerns about demolition by neglect. And you make an interesting point about housing.

    HoosierLawyer, that’s an interesting concept. The Farmer’s Market/marketplace idea that you and OMG bring up is one I haven’t thought about. I like it.

  • Some great photos of Bush Stadium from summer of 2009 can be found here:

    Despite some pealing paint, overgrown wees, and rotted wood bleachers, this stadium is in great shape. Not worthy of partial demolition at all.

  • Let’s show the aerial of Bush Stad now that it is chocked full of autos! Google earth has updated shot.

    Scrape the site. Indemnify future users from environmental liability (thank you whomever allowed this to become an auto dump) and offer abatements/incentives for a corporate HQ or some other big user (IUPUI, Clarian/IU, Lilly, Other) who can act as an anchor for the area. If developer can come up with a plan that meets density and design sell the site for 1$.

    Also, for Pete’s sake can we get some leadership down here and form a new zoning overlay for the area.

    • The Bush Stadium site is already in two overlay zones: Regional Center and Wellfield. “Find the big pot of money” for commercial redevelopment just isn’t going to happen. Lilly’s shrinking, Clarian is concentrating on the IUPUI-to-Methodist core, and IUPUI already has one stadium it wants to knock down. It’s too far from the core of downtown, and there are definitely higher priorities for downtown redevelopment (Faris campus, Market Square site, etc.).
      This location is too remote for any kind of “festival marketplace”; nothing else is around it. I agree that sports re-use would be best: eliminate the soccer stadium across the street, and operate a combination soccer/football/baseball/softball stadium that could be used by schools lacking facilities (such as Catholic and charter schools) as well as independent leagues or semi-professional teams. IMO this should have been the Super Bowl Legacy project.

  • Here’s the website from the “Bush Stadium Park” team that has one of the two proposals for the stadium: http://www.crossroadsofindianapolis.com/

    Also, to see details on Minneapolis’ farmer’s market to which I referred earlier, see here: http://www.mplsfarmersmarket.com/lyndale.php

  • I agree with the reuse of Bush Stadium as a sports facility. I have often thought that IPS should use the field as a shared baseball facility for a number of the high schools. It is a beautiful baseball stadium, and I would love to see it continued to be used for its original purpose. I’m all about adaptive reuse but this is an instance where I think the original use could still work.

  • IUPUI could definitely utilize this space… Perhaps they could renovate it back into a small race track and use the stadium to house their new, successful Motorsports Engineering program. It could be quite the training facility with garages, shops, labs, and spectator seating. The outer facade could be preserved entirely, and the interior could be put to great use. Who knows, maybe one day the facility could even host events like that of Purdue’s annual Grand Prix. I think this is an opportunity that shouldn’t be overlooked.

  • They should make the inside a few restaurants and bars and possibly retail spots WITHOUT changing the look or the architecture inside or out and turn the out side into a downtown amphitheater.

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