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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Play Station

From state-of-the-art facilities to top tournaments, Evansville is a destination for prep, college, and pro sports

Editor’s note: Read more about Evansville as a sports town in the full feature story.

Evansville’s loaded sports calendar includes Otters professional baseball in the summer and Thunderbolts professional hockey in cooler months. In recent years, the city has hosted the Ohio Valley Conference Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships as well as the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship, known as the Elite Eight.

Another asset is the 75,000-square-foot Deaconess Aquatic Center, built for competition as well as recreation and which in 2026 will host the NCAA DII Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships.

A possible future attraction, though, has generated considerable attention: City of Evansville and Major League Baseball officials have discussed Bosse Field one day hosting a “Field of Dreams”-style game.

“It would be the largest single athletic event to be in Evansville,” outgoing Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke said before leaving office Dec. 31, 2023. “It’s an amazing opportunity for the Evansville region.”

Bosse Field, built in 1915, is the third-oldest professional park in continuous operation, trailing Boston’s Fenway Park (1912) and Chicago’s Wrigley Field (1914).

Plenty of work would be required to make it happen — including an upgraded playing surface and relocated dugouts — to the tune of around $5 million.

Racking ‘Em Up

Brandon McClish, executive director of the Evansville Regional Sports Commission, outlines some of the major sporting events coming to the River City in 2024.

IHSAA State Wrestling Tournament
Feb. 16-17, Ford Center
McClish says landing the host gig for the 86th Indiana high school wrestling state championships was like “catching lightning in a bottle. … This is going to be a fantastic event for the city of Evansville and our economic impact, with two days of capacity crowds piling into Downtown. As IHSAA Commissioner Paul Neidig stated, Evansville has an impeccable reputation for host- ing athletic competitions. We are excited to showcase our city to the entire state.” It will be a one-time hosting opportunity for Evansville.

OVC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments
March 6-9, Ford Center
“It has been a yearly success,” McClish says of the tournament, which Evansville has hosted since 2018. “I am grateful to work with OVC Commissioner Beth DeBauche and her staff to give a top-notch experience for the student athletes. The Ford Center is an amazing site for this tournament that goes above and beyond expectations, as well as the hotel partners who continue to roll out the red carpet as they host teams each year.” Evansville is assured of hosting the OVC basketball tournaments through 2026.

NCAA Division II Men’s Elite Eight
March 26-30, Ford Center
“Being able to be the host site for the NCAA at any level is a huge accomplishment, but to host a national championship in basketball is a true honor, and one that we do not take lightly,” McClish says. “This is a collaborative effort of the Sports Commission, Evansville Regional Economic Partnership, Explore Evansville, Ford Center, and so many more to be able to call the Elite Eight home for Evansville. The entire week is great with high excitement and economic impact, but it is a highlight to be on the national stage as CBS broadcasts the championship game.” Evansville has secured the event through 2025, after which time it will move to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Other top events planned for 2024:
• Missouri Valley Conference Swim and Dive Tournament, Feb. 21-24, Deaconess Aquatic Center
• MVC Baseball Tournament, May 21-25, University of Evansville Braun Stadium

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Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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