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Baseball Stadium Takes Another Turn at Bat

Image of old Bush Stadium
Bush Stadium, completed in 1931, was a nearly forgotten relic, stacked with old cars, when the project began. Courtesy of Lynch, Harrison & Brumleve, Inc.

Historical Bush Stadium in Indianapolis is reborn as an apartment complex, complete with a concrete infield and a replica of the original press box.

April 23, 2013—An amazing metamorphosis is nearly complete on West 16th Street in Indianapolis, where developers are converting Bush Stadium, a minor league baseball field constructed in 1931, into an apartment building that incorporates elements of the historical structure, including the baseball diamond, the press box, and extensive banks of lights.

Core Redevelopment, in Indianapolis, owns the project, which was designed by the architecture firm Heartland Design. Lynch, Harrison & Brumleve, Inc. (LHB), in Indianapolis, provided the structural engineering services, which included several unusual challenges.

The stadium was last used for baseball in 1996, when it had the capacity to seat nearly 13,000 people. The residential design incorporates the existing foundations beneath the columns and concrete bleachers, which were deemed adequate given that the new loading on them is actually reduced from the original loading, according to Robert Dee, P.E., a principal of LHB.

However, the large concrete bleachers that were to be removed during the project provided essential lateral stability to both the picturesque exterior brick and concrete wall and the roof support beams, both of which were vital to preserve.

“The biggest challenge was that the existing steel roof trusses, which were to remain, are supported by steel columns bearing on top of concrete columns, with the hinge between and the two materials located at the original concrete bleacher level,” Dee says. “Because the bleachers had to be demolished—and therefore would no longer laterally stabilize the hinge between the steel and concrete columns—temporary bracing was designed and installed to ensure stability until after the new construction could offer that stability.

“It was during demolition and prior to construction when the building was most vulnerable,” Dee says. “We teamed collaboratively and collectively to make sure everyone felt very comfortable and confident in the temporary bracing scheme.”

The new structure is wood framed, with floor trusses and load-bearing shear walls. The building is 75 ft wide, apartments located on both sides of an interior corridor. Glue-laminate columns support the structure on footings that were originally occupied by some of the stadium’s concrete columns. The stadium’s original concrete frame located in the exterior wall also serves to support the new floor trusses in the apartment building.

The building’s third floor contains loft apartments with an open view of the underside of the stadium’s original steel trusses and wooden deck roof. Dee says the roof structure was in surprisingly good condition, with only isolated areas of decking requiring replacement. On top of the existing decking, a plywood diaphragm was added to increase the roof’s shear capacity. Insulation and a new membrane covering complete the roof. 

Old Bush Stadium, displaying new floor trusses which will be use for the loft units

Loft units on the third floor will have views of the stadium’s original
steel trusses and wood roof decking. Courtesy of Lynch, Harrison
& Brumleve, Inc.

Apartment units facing the interior of the stadium have abundant glass, affording views of the field, which has been preserved as a shared green space for residents. To maintain the feel of a baseball stadium, the infield has been re-created. “What used to be the infield is now a concrete infield, with stained concrete that is the color of dirt,” Dee says. “It includes a concrete pitcher’s mound and a batter’s box. The infield itself is a concrete plaza.”

The design team preserved three banks of historical lights atop the stadium. The original press box, atop the stadium behind home plate, was beyond repair. Instead, the team constructed a re-creation of the press box, purely for aesthetic purposes.

The project is nearly complete, and the first tenants are expected to move in later this summer. It’s a dramatic rebirth for the facility, which was constructed during the Great Depression. The stadium has a storied history. It was used as a stand-in for Chicago’s Comiskey Park in the movie Eight Men Out. It also hosted baseball games during the 1987 Pan Am Games.

After losing the Indianapolis Indians in 1996, the stadium sat mostly unused. A brief attempt to convert the facility to a Midget car race track failed. Later, it was used to store derelict cars taken in during the Cash for Clunkers program.

“When we first got the phone call to be involved in this project, there were still clunkers sitting out there all over the field, stacked five high,” Dee says.

“The owner is very interested in paying homage to the historical aspect of the stadium,” Dee adds. “That has always been a priority. Anything we can do to pay tribute to the past and remind tenants and people driving down the street that this used to be an old baseball stadium—he’s very interested in doing that.”



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