A few of you know that I had a rare chance to come to Indy for a job over the last couple of weeks. Well, the job ended early, and that left me with the rare opportunity to make a mad dash to the pacers schedule and see if I would have a chance to see my beloved team. I was very disappointed to see that I was going to leave one day too early.
Well, that just wouldn't do.
So I begged and pleaded with my boss to allow me to stay one extra day. Just one more day to see friends and family and if I could work in the pacers, too, then the day would be perfect.
I could go into all kinds of detail of all the different people I called in the organization to make this happen. But I don't want to make it sound like it was hard. It wasn't. It was EASY.
The pacers staff, from the switchboard operator, to the guy in the Home Court retail space at Circle Center Mall, to the box office sales rep to the hostess of the Varsity Club were all EXCEEDINGLY nice and accommodating.
At first it was just going to be my sister's family and me. 4 total. But then a couple of co-workers heard about my plan. Did they ask who the Pacers were playing? Did they care about the team's record? HECK NO! They wanted to go to the game!
Well, over the course of 24 hours, the party expanded at least 3 times to eventually make it 10 people total. Every time I had to change the number, I called the Varsity Club and left a message. And every time I did so, the Varsity Club called me right back with confirmation and even suggestions on what the best experience might be for our large party. The same woman who called me back with the arrangements was ready and waiting for us at the host stand when we arrived. I gotta tell you, she bent over backwards to make sure that we were settled in and happy.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Let's talk about the experience of going to the game.
I've been to at least 10 of the NBA's arenas across the country. Let's talk about what the Pacers offer that might not be available at other NBA venues.
CENTRAL LOCATION - Conseco is right downtown, within walking distance of many hotels, restaurants, shopping and theaters. Going to a game is a great and convenient way to end a full day in the city.
INEXPENSIVE (and covered) PARKING - ever try to park at United Center? Staples? AA Arena in Dallas? What a mess. Conseco provides a garage right next door for a comparatively modest fee and even has a tunnel bridge that takes you right inside the arena so you can get inside nice and dry.
ACCESSIBILITY - going to arenas can feel like running on a gerbil wheel. Compared to the other arenas I've been to, it seems only a blind gerbil could get lost in Conseco.
One of my party of 10 is a Bulls fan from Chicago. Along with never stopping to tell me about how much better the Bulls were than the Pacers, he ALSO wouldn't stop talking about how great Conseco Fieldhouse was. You could tell that it pained him to say it.
Let's get to the bargain of it all.
BARGAINS - After making a reservation for 10 people for rail-side seating at the Varsity Club, I realized that I hadn't even bought any tickets yet. Well, did you know that ANY ticket will grant you access to the Varsity Club on the club level? And that's what we did. we bought the cheapest tickets in the house - $10 each - to get in the building. The Varsity Club took care of the rest.
They had a GREAT buffet. I can't name it all. spinach and strawberry salad, braised pork, the mac-and-cheese made even our most stringent food snob melt. and it was all you can eat for under $30. I mean, you can't get that anywhere in LA. My coworkers had been treated to a night at a fancy fish joint the night before (Ocean Aire) and they all declared that it was trumped by the buffet at Conseco. For half the cost. The staff was on top of it, brought our drinks right to us without us ever having to lift a finger. And everyone was really REALLY kind and helpful.
Oh, and the view from the railing seats at the Varsity Club were none-too-shabby:
NOT BAD for $10 + the cost of food and gratuity!
Well, that all brings us to the in-game experience.
The last game I saw in Conseco was in January, 2004. What a dramatically different experience between then and now. I loved the live drum line that replaced the crappy piped-in recorded music. I loved the interactions with the fans, and YES, I especially loved the increase in noise and excitement provided by AREA 55!!! Thank you, Roy Hibbert for adding this to the experience and thank you to all of the fans in Area 55 for keeping it up all game long!
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This was my sister's family's first Pacers game. And MAN were they excited! They were dazzled by the entire experience and I've received about 10 different emails/texts/calls just thanking me for the chance to have this experience. Likewise, my co-workers, who have no connection to the Pacers whatsoever, told me about what a great idea it was for their last night in Indy and how much fun they had.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I must beg you to remember:
Going to Indiana Pacers games is fun. REALLY FUN!!