It was 2010, and the Rotary Club of Fort Wayne was in need of a new home for its weekly meeting.
The group knew it wanted a location downtown. But where?
"Since Parkview Field was the city's brand new jewel, that was enticing," said Barbara Wachtman, a Rotarian who previously served as the club's president. "Yet we weren't sure if they'd be able to accommodate us."
Fast-forward, and the Rotary Club of Fort Wayne is now in its 10th year of calling Parkview Field's Suite Level Lounge the host of its Monday luncheons and more.
Not only has the home of the Fort Wayne TinCaps baseball team managed to accommodate the space for Fort Wayne Rotary's 75 members and guests on a regular basis, but they're requests, too.
"Parkview Field wound up checking all the boxes for us," said Jane Wilkes, the club's executive secretary. "From catering to free parking to storage and much in between, the ballpark checked all of our boxes and fit our budget."
Wachtman and Wilkes are quick to credit Parkview Field's special events staff, led by Special Events Manager Holly Raney and Banquet Event Manager Lexi Strabala.
"They're customer-focused, knowledgeable, and just fantastic to work with," Wilkes added. "The quality of the food is another plus."
The Rotary Club of Fort Wayne was so impressed with Parkview Field's service that when it came time to find a site for their first ever Mardi Gras "Big Easy Feast" fundraiser in 2017, after surveying options around town, they wound up going with the ballpark's Lincoln Financial Events Center. This year's feast on March 5, featuring both a New Orleans-themed lunch and dinner, will be their third year in a row at Parkview Field, with 550 diners expected. Proceeds benefit Fort Wayne's Riverfront Project, with the club donating money to build a fountain on the project's south plaza to be an area for kids to play when the weather's hot.
It was during the inaugural "Big Easy Feast" that Wachtman said the venue and its staff reminded again how they surpass expectations. The event had more guests for dinner than initially expected. Fortunately for the Rotary, on the fly, Parkview Field opened up its 400 Club in the outfield area for the overflow crowd.
"They anticipate our needs," Wachtman said.
For Raney and her team, that's the objective, regardless of the type or size of the event.
While Parkview Field has welcomed more than 4 million fans through the first 10 years of TinCaps games, the ballpark also has hosted another 1 million-plus for special events. In fact, it was fitting that the 1,000,000th special events guest was celebrated in the summer of 2017 during a Rotary luncheon. As a sign of appreciation, the TinCaps and Parkview Field presented a check with a donation to the Rotary's Riverfront project.
These non-baseball occasions have ranged from Rotary meetings and weddings, all the way up to major concerts (like the Florida Georgia Line Show of 2014 that drew 13,500 fans) and events such as the Fort4Fitness Fall Festival (which draws 25,000 runners, walkers, and spectators). In 2018, Parkview Field hosted more than 700 non-baseball events, the most of any Minor League Baseball facility in the country.
"We like to say that Parkview Field is more than baseball," Raney said. "It certainly is a great place for baseball, but we can also host much more. The different spaces we have around the ballpark provide for a lot of versatility. No matter what we're holding though, it's certainly a priority to be detail-oriented as we cater to the needs of that event to the best of our abilities."
That attention to detail is another reason the Rotary Club of Fort Wayne appreciates having events at Parkview Field.
"They allow us to have a taste test of the food," Wilkes said. "They truly listen to our feedback on things like that and go out of their way to make sure we're happy."
Said Wachtman: "We can't imagine going anywhere else."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.