INDIANAPOLIS — As part of the second largest renovation in NBA history, Gainbridge Fieldhouse is ready to welcome guests for the Indiana Pacers' season opener Wednesday night.
New this year, Hoosier artwork lines the halls, untraditional food options fill menus throughout the fieldhouse, and in just a few months, fans can enjoy a brand new outdoor plaza.
The 'art' of the game
Through a partnership with the Indy Arts Council and the Capitol Improvement Board, Gainbridge Fieldhouse is now lined with more than 60 pieces of artwork and murals from Indiana artists.
Daniel Lopez, vice president for external affairs and corporate communications for Pacers Sports & Entertainment, said more than 20 Hoosier artists contributed to the project.
"These are diverse artists from across the state," Lopez said.
According to Lopez, the artwork captures the highlights of both sports and entertainment in Indiana, specifically inside Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
"It's a place where a lot of memories have been made and a lot of really cool events have happened," Lopez said, "but it's also a spot for the community. It's a way to showcase these incredible artists."
With millions of people passing through the fieldhouse in any given year, Gainbridge Fieldhouse is much more than a basketball arena, according to Lopez.
"A lot of gathering spaces, a lot more bar spaces," Lopez said, "but a component of that has to be the visual arts because when people come here, they're not just coming for a basketball game or for a concert — they're coming for an experience. They're coming for memories that are being made. This artwork, and of course the artists who created them, are a critical component of that."
Some of those experiences include LED and interactive art pieces.
"We might think of this place as just a basketball arena," Lopez said. "We are a whole lot more than basketball."
Bicentennial Unity Plaza
Just to the north of Gainbridge Fieldhouse sits the future home of the Bicentennial Unity Plaza.
With construction well underway, Lopez expects the outdoor space to be complete in the spring of 2023 and will be available seven days a week for Hoosiers to enjoy.
SNEAK PEEK: Outdoor plaza at Gainbridge Fieldhouse
"People who just want to grab a sandwich and come downtown or are downtown working and want a place to sit, it'll be open," Lopez said. "We are really trying to create an open, welcoming environment to the north of the fieldhouse."
Another draw to complete the project in 2023 is the upcoming NBA All-Star Game in 2024, which will be held in Indianapolis.
"This will be the most inclusive, community centric, NBA All-Star Weekend that has ever been had," Lopez said. "That is our goal. We are really going to make an effort to use these assets to bring people to the downtown and make them feel a part of everything going on."
A taste of Gainbridge Fieldhouse
Pacers fans can look forward to a starting lineup of new food options this season.
You'll still be able to snag your typical arena classics like hot dogs and popcorn, but how about collard greens and deep-fried cauliflower? Those are just a few options from fan favorite Taste of Innova Wings + Greens.
The local restaurant was new to Gainbridge Fieldhouse last year, joining as part of its guest chef program that highlights local restaurants and chefs. A handful of local eateries had rotating appearances on game days, most of them minority-owned.
"We sold out for each game that we had," co-owner Monique Hawkins said, "and the funds went to a great cause. The proceeds went to Gleaners, and it built our business by 25%."
Taste of Innova Wings + Greens will now be in Gainbridge Fieldhouse all season long, thanks to its popularity last season.
If you have a sweet tooth, you can check out another new addition, The Shake Bar. It's owned by Steak 'n Shake, but you won't find burgers here – only decadent, over-the-top milkshakes.
Perhaps chicken wings and milkshakes haven't got your attention? You can wander the concourse and take your pick from options like chicken adobo nachos, Birria Ramen bowls, bourbon bacon grilled cheese, or a crispy cinnamon wheel with Nutella and powdered sugar on top — all of which come highly recommended from Gainbridge Fieldhouse Executive Chef Chris Albino.