Roberts Stadium Report: The Complete Text






In November 2011, the new Ford Center opened for business. Activities at Roberts Stadium, which had opened in 1956, were suspended. Early in 2012, Mayor Lloyd Winnecke established the Roberts Stadium Task Force to recommend the most viable alternatives for the future use of the Roberts Stadium property. The members appointed to the Task Force are listed in Exhibit A.

The Task Force held its initial meeting on Jan. 19, 2012. At that meeting, Mayor Winnecke asked the Task Force to seek input from the public, to evaluate that input, and to give him a list of the few best ideas from that evaluation. He told the Task Force that he wanted the ideas for alternative use of the old stadium to be evaluated according to five primary criteria.

  • Finance/Investment considerations
  • Sustainability
  • Image
  • Feasibility (capability, structure & cost)
  • Local compatibility

The Mayor asked the Task Force to eliminate two kinds of ideas from consideration.

  • Ideas that compete with the Ford Center
  • Ideas that are purely commercial development. A partnership with private interests would be acceptable as long as the result retained an essentially public character.


The Task force scheduled three meetings for seeking input from the public.

  • Jan. 26, 2012 at The Center
  • Jan. 28, 2012 at Roberts Stadium (This meeting was preceded by a tour of the stadium )
  • Feb. 1, 2012 at The Center

Each of these meetings was conducted as small group facilitated discussions. Attendees were invited to join one of several small groups discussing future uses of the stadium facility. A representative of Leadership Evansville who recorded the discussion on flip charts facilitated each small group. Every meeting was well attended. Approximately fifty members of the public attended each of the meetings at The Center. Roughly, twice that number attended the meeting at Roberts Stadium.

In addition to the public meetings, a web site was established for receiving input from members of the public who did not or could not attend the meetings.

Together, the public meetings and the web site received over 600 separate submissions.


A review of the submissions from the public revealed that there were several common themes expressed. The submissions were sorted, according to those themes, into six groups.

  • Sports Venue
  • Entertainment And Exposition Venue
  • Parks/Green Space/Water Park,
  • Save The Stadium
  • Raze The Stadium
  • Miscellaneous (a very small number in this theme)

Three sub-committees were formed to consider the ideas in four of the groups: sports, entertainment and exposition (the few miscellaneous ideas were put into this group), and parks. The membership of each subcommittee is listed on Exhibit B. The goal of each subcommittee was to evaluate the proposals in its group, identify the most viable, and report those recommendations back to the Task Force. Proposals that advocated simply saving or simply razing the stadium were not specifically considered since they were inherently included in the other proposals.

Each subcommittee reported its results to the Task Force at a meeting held on March 22, 2012. Each sub-committee report is summarized later in this report.


Investment and operating cost estimates were prepared for each of the projects recommended by the sub-committees. Since no design work has been done nor specifications drafted for any of these projects, the estimates should be used to indicate orders of magnitude rather than precise predictions.

The investment cost estimates were made by applying the expertise and experience of individuals working in the construction and architectural businesses to a series of assumptions common to all of the recommended projects. This method provides an internally consistent basis for the estimates. The common assumptions used are described on Exhibit C. The components of the estimates for Sports and Exposition/Entertainment are shown on Exhibits D and E.

The operating cost for the park project was estimated by the city Parks Department using its existing costs as a basis. The operating cost of the other projects was estimated by SMG using their experience operating facilities in and around Evansville.

Subcommittee on "Sports"


In reviewing the hundreds of ideas submitted for the future of Roberts Stadium, it is not surprising that a large number of them involved utilizing the facility for some sort of sports complex. However, when reviewing these ideas from the standpoint of financial viability and sustainability, and other pertinent considerations, the list of alternatives was narrowed considerably. After a comprehensive review of all the "sports" ideas/concepts presented through the public input forum and the city website, the "sports" sub-committee has narrowed the list down to three alternatives which can be considered viable according to the criteria which were established for evaluating the alternatives.

The subcommittee evaluation concluded that while no one single sport seems to provide a viable alternative, a combination of sports events/offerings may well be financially viable and provide significant benefits to the community.

One of the considerations included in the sub-committee's process was the previously vetted idea of converting the area to a softball/baseball complex. This alternative was considered, but rejected, because it had previously been defeated.

The three potentially viable ideas/concepts developed by the sub-committee with no regard to order of preference/priority are presented and discussed below:

Multi-Sport Complex

The emphasis in this alternative is Multi-Sport. In essence, a redesigned Roberts Stadium would house a combination of sports alternatives that would maximize the number of indoor sports activities that could be included within the physical constraints of the existing complex. At this time, no specific recommendation as to which sports should be included has been determined. The sub-committee recommends that a professional organization be hired to do a physical design study that will determine how to maximize the number of sports activities that could be included for the most efficient use of available space. A list of possible indoor sports activities would include the following:

Archery                                                        Gymnastics

Basketball                                                  Playground

Batting cages                                             Racquetball

Firearms range                                          Soccer

Fitness Center                                           Tennis

Golf driving range                                     Volleyball

This concept has the advantage of serving a wide diversity of interests, serving both "young" and "old" residents in our community. Financial viability could come through annual memberships, monthly and daily fees, as well as "event" income.

The estimated investment cost for this facility is $20,300,000 - $21,150,000.

The estimated annual operating cost is $815,000.

Multi-Sport/Natatorium Complex

The concept of a Natatorium received a number of mentions in the public forum and probably for good reason. In many other cities the size of Evansville, this has become a viable concept and there is demonstrable need for this kind of facility in Evansville. However, the subcommittee has reservations about this being a financially viable and sustainable concept on its own. There is evidence to suggest that it can be, but the sub-committee feels that a more viable alternative is to have a combination Natatorium and Multi Sport Complex.

This combination would have the Natatorium as its base and would attain its financial viability through annual, monthly, and daily memberships as well as the potential for special events that would benefit not only the Roberts facility, but the Evansville hospitality industry as well.

Since there is some uncertainty as to the overall financial support for a stand-alone natatorium, it is believed that this venue, in partnership with a multi-sports complex is a better alternative.

Again, the specific featured sports of the multi-sport complex have not been identified, but would be evaluated in conjunction with the natatorium as the base of the space utilization. The choices of the other sports to be included with the natatorium would be taken from the sports listed in the prior multi-sports complex alternative as detailed above.

A multi-sport/natatorium complex has the appeal of potentially being financially viable through both a continuing attendance fee schedule and the potential for "natatorium events" which will bring in direct revenues to the facility as well as tourism dollars for the city of Evansville.

The estimated investment cost for this facility is $24,300,000 – $25,100,000. The estimated annual operating cost is $815,000.

Action Sports - BMX/Natatorium

Few, if any, ideas and suggestions received more support, input, and attention than the proposal  of turning the Roberts Stadium facility into an Extreme/Action Sports-BMX  venue. Careful review of all of the reams of data submitted on this idea suggests that there may be real potential for this concept. However, speculation as to whether this concept, by itself, is financially viable and sustainable led the sub-committee to favor pairing it with the Natatorium. With a combination of these activities, the facility could more realistically achieve the goals of financial viability and sustainability.

Under this alternative, in essence, the facility would be converted to half natatorium and half Extreme Sports-BMX. This alternative would be financially supported, as would be the others, through daily, monthly, and annual usage fees. It would also be supported by "action sports events" that would take place at the facility. In the case of BMX, these events, in other cities, have attracted national sponsors to help pay for the events and would bring in "tourism" dollars to Evansville. Proponents of the Natatorium suggest that "events" will pay for themselves with participation fees while "tourism" dollars are an added bonus for Evansville when the natatorium hosts, local, regional, and even state events.

This alternative, more than any of the others, might have the potential for the most significant "tourism" dollars for the City of Evansville, and because of significant usage fees, have the potential to offset its operating costs.

The estimated investment cost for the action sports venue alone is $6,000,000 – $6,700,000. If a small natatorium is included, the estimated investment cost is $11,600,000 - $12,300,000. The estimated annual operating cost is $815,000.


The sub-committee feels that these three ideas are the best alternatives offered under the category of "sports". Further, it is felt that these alternatives potentially meet the "viability" criteria of financial considerations, sustainability, image, feasibility, and local compatibility.

Just as importantly, the sub-committee also feels that these "sports" alternatives can both in reality, and from and image standpoint, help address some of the overall concerns relating to the City of Evansville. First and foremost is the Evansville image as a city of obesity. A sports complex of any kind would help not only the reality of this situation, but the portrayed image. Additionally, these "sports" alternatives can address not only the needs of "young people" which were voiced numerous times as a concern in the public forum, but  also addresses the needs of all residents who are looking for an economical facility for physical exercise needs.

An additional point is that none of the alternatives presented would require the amount of parking space currently available at the Roberts Stadium facility. As a result, additional outdoor venues beyond what is suggested in these alternatives could be considered as complementary to these alternatives. Green Space, walking / bicycle paths and farmers markets, are just some of the examples that could be coupled with the sports venue alternatives provided in this report.

Sub-committee on Entertainment/Exposition


The Sub-committee reviewed over sixty suggestions in the Entertainment/Exposition category for the continued utilization of Roberts Stadium. After a thorough examination, the committee was able to organize the ideas into three generic categories:  Aquarium, an Exposition Center, and a Mid-sized Events Center. The viability of these options was carefully considered. An overview of the discussion is summarized below:


Our Sub-committee believes an aquarium would be a wonderful attraction to the city of Evansville. However:

  • We recognize the construction of this venue is a major expense – tens of millions of dollars – that would be difficult to fund.
  • We believe that the adaptive reuse of the Stadium for this purpose is not feasible. An aquarium requires unique features not available at the Stadium, and it would be more expensive to create this venue within the constraints of the existing facility than to build this attraction completely new.
  • Finally, we are not convinced the existing Stadium location would be the appropriate place to construct this attraction.

Therefore, the Sub-committee dismissed this suggestion as not being an appropriate alternative.

Regional Exposition Center 

The emphasis in this alternative is that the renovated Roberts Stadium could be converted from a "spectator" facility to a "participation" facility. Obviously, spectator venues are those in which the primary use is by persons who are seated to watch the duration of an event – arriving and leaving at the same time. Participation facilities are ones that actually need no seats since the whole purpose is a "come and go" exhibition of themed interests where attendees interact with exhibitors to learn and be encouraged to make purchases. Visitors could test, trial and practice in a unique Tri-State marketplace. Approximately ninety different possible exhibition examples were provided as a part of the public input. The key to this venue's success is the ingenuity of the event creators, not promoters buying events.

Suggested renovations to the facility would include:

  • Remove all fixed seats and "open up" the facility completely to create as large an exhibition space as possible.
  • Raise the main floor area to the existing concourse/parking lot level.
  • Add overhead doors to the "side" of the building for access to the exhibition area.
  • Modify the HVAC system to re-create the return air system that is eliminated when the floor is raised.
  • Address the roofing and miscellaneous maintenance issues.
  • Aesthetic improvements could be deferred until future funding is available.
  • The space created would be 8-10 times the existing size of the Roberts Stadium floor.

Regarding the operations of the facility:

  • The proposal received suggests that the facility will be used 180 days per year x 1,000 visitors per day x $10 per person. This projection would yield an expected revenue of $1.8 million annually.
  • No operating costs or projected expenses were identified.
  • It was suggested that the City could manage the facility more cost effectively than a promoter could. This probably would require a department such as Parks and Recreation to add staff – creative, marketing and maintenance.

Initial thoughts regarding costs of the renovations:

  • The proposal received suggests the front-end costs be funded by the same Lodging Tax used by the Convention and Visitor's Bureau for the ball field project – since it is envisioned to bring visitors to our City for over night stays.
  • Estimates from a local construction company suggest that raising the floor to parking lot level could cost approximately $1.3 million.

The estimated investment cost for this facility is $3,750,000 – $4,250,000. If excess paving is removed and replaced with green space, the investment cost is increased by $1,750,000 – $2,000,000. The estimated annual operating cost is $750,000.

Mid-Sized Events Center

The focus of this alternative is a renovated Roberts Stadium that would house complimentary uses for the Ford Center and The Centre. This proposal suggests the facility can become self-sustaining and offer attractions that would be more appropriately offered in a mid-sized venue rather than a premier arena. Maintaining a viable mid-sized events center could offer more entertainment possibilities thus making Evansville a more attractive place to live while improving the quality of life for our residents. This proposal also offers several examples of cities where mid-sized and premier arenas co-exist.

The basic components of the renovation would include:

  • Raise the event floor to level above the water table and create a playing area large enough for indoor football.
  • Eliminate all seating above the concourse/parking lot level.
  • Reduce seating capacity to approximately 6,000 seats.
  • Modify the HVAC system to re-create the return air system that is disrupted when the floor is raised.
  • Address the roofing and miscellaneous maintenance issues.
  • Maintain the use of the loading dock and access to the event floor.
  • Elimination of seats will create a wider more usable concourse area for exhibition opportunities around the remaining seating bowl.

Regarding the operations of the facility:

  • Several potential repeat users were identified – Evansville Crush Indoor Soccer, Indoor Football, USI Basketball:  Pre-Season or GLVC Tournaments, NBA Development League Basketball, NALL  Lacrosse, BMX Shows, Mid-sized Concerts, and Trade Shows.
  • It is stated in the proposal that, with coordination and definition of "competition", both SMG and Venuworks would be interested in managing Roberts Stadium.
  • No projected expenses or revenue have been identified.

Initial thoughts regarding costs of the renovations:

  • The proposal received suggests the front end costs could be offset by funds from the Lodging Tax.
  • Other funding ideas offered included selling naming rights to the facility and selling commemorative bricks.

The estimated investment cost for this facility is $4,000,000 - $4,500,000. If excess paving is removed and replaced with green space, the investment cost is increased by $1,750,000 – $2,000,000. The estimated annual operating cost is $1,163,000.


The two specific proposals on which the overview is based are attached as Exhibits D and E. Our Sub-committee feels these two alternatives potentially meet the criteria set forth by the Mayor:  financial considerations, sustainability, image, feasibility, and local compatibility. Certainly, more detailed examination is required to determine a better understanding of management and marketing responsibilities, up-front financial commitment, and accurate income projections. In addition, there will undoubtedly be discussion and differences of opinion, as there was in our committee, regarding whether these uses pass the filter of not being competitive with the Ford Center and The Centre. Simply stated, what one person views as competitive, another views as complementary.

An additional point is that neither of the alternatives presented would require the number of parking spaces currently available at Roberts Stadium. Consequently, additional outdoor venues could be considered. These could include green space, recreation, or specific uses such as a farmer's market.

Sub-committee on Parks

The members of the parks subcommittee met to review the various ideas that could be categorized into a park theme in the public sessions. Overwhelming, it was determined that the majority of the submissions were fragmented and not presented in a complete or thorough fashion. Because of this, the subcommittee worked to find similar threads and commonalities in the submissions. The subcommittee quickly discovered that a large number of the submissions included phrases such as green-space, open-areas, and something for everyone. In addition, it was agreed that almost unanimously, the park submissions assumed that the prospects for a park idea to be realized included a razing of both Roberts Stadium as well as the concrete parking lot associated with it.

The subcommittee seemed to rally most around the idea of a park or green space that would serve as Evansville's Central Park. To put this idea in context, several subcommittee members referred to New York City's Central Park or Piedmont Park in Atlanta, GA. One public submission was of particular relevance in that it provided a visual overhead perspective of what this green space might look like. The rendering included a lake, a dog park, open green space, picnic areas, and storm shelters/restrooms.

The group felt that this was truly the most beneficial aspect of the park ideas as a general topic; in short, the park idea could be as simple or as magnificent as the city likes depending on its ability to outline priorities and funding sources. The green space could even include a complete renovation to Wesselman Park and complement the assets of Swonder Ice Arena.

Additionally, the group attempted to put into context the potential of this green space/park initiative should it be determined that it warrants additional development. Including the renovation of the park in the greater context of an overpass that might connect the new park to Vann Park and the Mental Health Park could begin to form a connectivity feature to the rest of the city's green spaces. This could be further highlighted in that the Lincoln Avenue bike paths would now be linked to the new park. More connectivity might exist in that, if carried north, the razed Robert's Stadium site could be linked to the trails and canoe/kayak routes that follow the Pigeon Creek footprint.

The idea of a green space/park in the vacated Robert's Stadium footprint also made particular sense from a marketing and public relations perspective. The subcommittee thought that an investment in a world-class park venue could do much to show an immediate and serious response to the overall health and obesity challenges that the community is facing. This green space could send a message of priority on the part of the city and the current administration to tackling the issue head on.

The main challenges that remain to be addressed with this park proposal center on the actual content of the park. Cost benefit analysis of an outdoor bike/skate park, jogging trails, ultimate Frisbee course, dog park, playground, lake, basketball courts, pavilions and the like have yet to be undertaken and should serve as a method for prioritization. Further, these initiatives should be investigated with the idea that various amenities within this idealized park could be underwritten, complete with naming rights, from the private sector.

In summary, the park subcommittee very much appreciated the opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue in the overall process and in particular at the subcommittee level. Taken as a whole, the process was insightful and challenging. It is our hope that the park/green space idea might be investigated further to more finitely articulate its costs, benefits, and possibilities.

Reliable sources suggest that this sort of park – some sports areas, some green spaces, a few pavilions – can be built for a cost of $350K - $400K/acre. Since the Roberts stadium property comprises 35 acres, the projected cost for a park limited to that property would be $12million - $14million. The local Department of Parks and Recreation estimated that the annual maintenance cost of the park would be between $10,000 and $ 32,000. The incursion of this investment could be spread out over time by building the facility in stages. Should the larger idea of connection to Vann Park and Mental Health Park be considered, staged construction would probably become necessary.


Some general conclusions arose out of the public input meetings and the subcommittee discussions.

  1. Roberts Stadium was originally designed, and later renovated, for a specific use. Converting it to a different use will, in most cases, be more expensive than building an equivalent new facility. Several items lead to this conclusion.
    1. The main floor must be raised to deal with the underground water. While necessary, this will add very little value to the end use of the project.
    2. Raising the floor will require major modifications to the air handling system in the building. Again, this is necessary but will add very little value to the end use of the project.
  2. There was a consistent theme expressed in the public input that the end use for this property be "something for everyone".
  3. The financial viability of the projects identified in this report will depend more on their ongoing operating cost coupled with the organizational capacity available to manage them and promote their activities than on the initial investment. Getting estimates of operating costs and capabilities that are good enough to use will require more specificity and design work than is currently available.



Larry Steenberg

Bill Nix

Sylvia Trabits-Niemeir

Ken Quakkelaar

David Coker

Greg Hoffman

Donna Leader

Luke Yaeger

Stephanie Brinkerhoff-Riley

Jay Hargis

Rev. Rabon Turner

Jeff Justice

Jordan Baer

Greg Stillwell

Jonathan Weaver



Sports Sub-committee

Bill Nix - Coordinator

David Coker

Greg Hoffman

Donna Leader

Ken Quakkelaar

Sylvia Trabits-Niemeir

Entertainment/Exposition" Sub-committee

Jeff Justice – Coordinator

Jordan Baer

Greg Stillwell


Luke Yaeger – Coordinator

Stephanie Brinkerhoff-Riley

Jay Hargis

Rev. Rabon Turner




Exposition Center 

  • Raise floor to parking lot level.
  • Remove all seating.
  • Add overhead doors to east elevation.
  • Rework return air system
  • Power in floor (new).
  • No work except mechanical/electrical on lower level.
  • Renovate restrooms.
  • Renovate / improve concessions on each end.
  • Fix roof.
  • New finishes throughout – paint/flooring.
  • Remove scoreboard.
  • Miscellaneous maintenance items.

Secondary Events Center 

  • Raise floor back to original elevation – rework connection to service area.
  • Remove seats above concourse level.
  • Rework return air system.
  • Scoreboard, stays.
  • Renovate all locker rooms.
  • Renovate restrooms.
  • Renovate / improve concessions on each end.
  • Fix roof.
  • New finishes throughout – paint/flooring.
  • Refurnish lower level service area.
  • Miscellaneous maintenance items.

Add number for both – removing approximately ½ parking lot and adding green space.




Evansville Multi Sport / Natatorium

  • Remove concourse seating
  • Remove balance of seating
  • Raise floor to grade
  • Remove sky boxes
  • Rework HVAC
  • Remove sky boxes
  • Concessions renovations
  • Locker / restroom renovations
  • Roof repairs
  • Gymnasium multi sport build out
  • Natatorium build out


10% O & P $22,495,000

10% Contingency $24,744,500

Suggest range of magnitude $24,300,000 to $25,100,000

Suggest including professional design fee of 6%


Evansville Multi Sport Facility

  • Remove concourse seating
  • Remove balance of seating
  • Raise floor to grade
  • Remove sky boxes
  • Renovate HVAC
  • Locker / restroom renovations
  • Renovate concessions
  • Roof repairs
  • Gymnasium sports build out


10% O & P $18,865,000

10% Contingency $20,751,500

Suggest range of magnitude $20,300,000 to $21,150,000

Suggest including professional design fee of 6%




Evansville Extreme Sports Facility

  • Remove concourse seats
  • Remove seats
  • Raise floor to original design elevation (Before renovation)
  • Remove sky boxes
  • Renovate HVAC system
  • Locker / restroom renovations
  • Renovate concessions
  • Roof repair
  • Upgrade finishes
  • Misc Maintenance
  • Extreme sport equipment install


10% O & P $5,761,800

10% Contingency $6,337,980

Suggest range of magnitude of $6,000,000 to 6,700.00

Suggest including professional design fee of 6%


  • Does not include any work in south portion of facility added in 1995 or parking lots.
  • The above budget numbers reflect some information from past projects with somewhat similar types of construction. Keep in mind, because of the uniqueness of this structure, and challenges to build within these limits, we would highly recommend that going forward, if one of the above options seems to fit within budget constraints, a preliminary engineering study prior to committing any money, be performed.




Evansville Exposition Center                                                                         

  • Remove all seating
  • Raise floor to parking lot level
  • Rework HVAC system
  • Add overhead doors to east elevation
  • Renovate restrooms
  • Renovate concessions on each end
  • Repair roof
  • Upgrade finishes
  • Miscellaneous maintenance items
  • No work on lower level
  • Remove scoreboard                                                                                                                                        


      Contractor O & P (10%)                                                               x  1.1


      Contingency (10%)                                                                      x  1.1


Suggest Range of Magnitude -                                     $3,750,000 - $4,250,000

Note:  Possibly include $1,750,000 - $2,000,000 to remove paving and add undefined "green space".

Suggest including professional design fees of 6%





Mid-Sized Events Center                                                                    

  • Remove seating above concourse level
  • Raise floor to original elevation – minor seating revisions, rework connection

to service area

  • Rework HVAC system
  • Renovate restrooms
  • Renovate locker/dressing rooms
  • Renovate concessions on each end
  • Repair roof
  • Upgrade finishes
  • Miscellaneous maintenance items
  • No work on lower level except in locker / dressing rooms


      Contractor O & P (10%)                                                               x  1.1


      Contingency (10%)                                                                      x  1.1


Suggest Range of Magnitude -                                     $4,000,000 - $4,500,000

Note:  Possibly include $1,750,000 - $2,000,000 to remove paving and add undefined "green space".

Suggest including professional design fees of 6%.