Discover more from Fieldhouse Files with Scott Agness
The Pacers launched a new tradition before tip-off to Rev It Up
From Mario Andretti to Tony Kanaan, former Pacers and local figures, the team hosted a designated person each home game to get revved up.
The Indiana Pacers finish team introductions and the LED house lights are turned back on, then all attention is directed to the northwest corner of Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
A custom-built IndyCar — yellow, with logos of the team and arena on it — is brought out and the public address announcer takes over. He introduces the special individual behind the wheel and then gives the command to … revvvvvv it up!
This is a new pre-game tradition at Pacers home games this season.
The idea was hatched in the middle of last season. Dean Heaviland is the vice president of game operations. He’s worked for the franchise since 1995 and is so well-respected across the league that he helped direct the show for the 2023 NBA All-Star Game in Salt Lake City.
Heaviland sits at the end of the scorer’s table next to Mike Preston, VP of basketball communication and media relations, and is in charge of directing the game night presentation. Together, Heaviland and Preston brainstormed some ideas.
“We were thinking about what we could do different at the start of games and try to have something that is unique,” Heaviland explained. “Obviously, it’s basketball and racing in Indiana and once we started looking at doing the “Rev It Up” theme for the team, it made perfect sense.”
They had already l looked into having a car before the theme was decided on by Todd Taylor’s marketing department. Heaviland worked with the IndyCar Racing Experience and IndyCar manufacturer Dallara, whose factory is in nearby Speedway.
That’s where Heaviland lives and coaches the high school boys soccer team. Dallara is the supplier for chassis and they built one specifically for this 30-second moment before each Pacers home game.
It was only fitting for the honoree on opening night to be Mario Andretti, a motorsports legend and the 1969 Indianapolis 500 champion. They’ve had Nancy Leonard, 6-foot-9 Darnell Hillman (the seat is adjustable), Austin Croshere, several Fever players, local community leaders and more.
“We try to match the theme of the night and it was a learning thing too,” Heaviland said. “First, trying to get people to do it because they had no idea what it was. Any time you try to start a new tradition is tough. But I think it’s going better than I anticipated. I never would’ve guessed that Will Ferrell and 50 Cent would have been in it.”
On Wednesday night, it was 7-footer Greg Oden behind the wheel, appropriate because he was a dominant player at Lawrence North High School, 2006 Indiana Mr. Basketball and the Pacers honored each of the high school championship teams from this season at halftime of the game.
Now, Friday’s game against the Detroit Pistons is fan appreciation night. The team is in the middle of a rebuild and not involved in postseason play for the third consecutive season, so it’s the regular-season home finale.
And so on fan appreciation night, the Pacers (34-46) will share that opportunity with Steve Cage, a loyal season-ticket holder for over 35 years.
“I know what Gainbridge Fieldhouse can feel like,” Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said this week. “Last year was a down year. We had a lot of empty seats, but we’ve gone a long way and this team has gone a long way toward winning our fan base back. That’s been evident in just about every game.”
Fans enjoyed Tyrese Haliburton’s play this season, three years (and $360 million) of renovations completed to The Fieldhouse, a new sky deck and improved experience.
This Rev It Up moment pregame is catching on — and will be back for Year 2.
“It’s been received well enough that I do think it is something we’re gonna continue,” Heaviland revealed. “And it’s something we can grow. It’s been fun for me, honestly. Just because it’s something different.”
Below is the full list of individuals who took part this season:
10/19: Mario Andretti
10/21: Nick Bostic, local hero who save five children from burning home
10/22: Nancy Leonard
11/4: Drew Storen, former MLB pitcher
11/7: Captain Brian Adams
11/9: Lieutenant Rex Padgett
11/12: Darnell Hillman
11/19: Hagerstown Little League baseball
11/21: Mad Ants head coach Tom Hankins
11/23: Austin Croshere
11/25: Vivica A. Fox
12/9: Colts tight end Jelani Woods
12/10: IndyCar 2022 Rookie of the Year Christian Lundgaard
12/12: Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr.
12/14: Don Buse
12/18: Fever guard Lexie Hull
12/27: Lieutenant Riley Compton
12/29: Vern Fleming
12/31: Fever forward Emily Engstler
1/2: Harlem Globetrotter Scooter
1/6: Cubs pitcher Tucker Barnhart
1/8: Former Butler star Matt Howard
1/13: Greg Wilson, Indiana Civil Rights Commission
1/14: Patricia Payne, Director of the Indianapolis Public Schools Racial Equity Office
1/24: NHRA Top Fuel Dragster Antron Brown
1/27: 2001 Indiana Mr. Basketball Chris Thomas
2/1: Sabre Cook, pro racing driver
2/3: Ashley Nora, local artist
2/5: Boomer and mascots
2/10: Fever guard Erica Wheeler
2/13: Fred Jones
2/15: Ball State basketball coach Michael Lewis
2/23: IndyCar driver and 2013 Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan
3/6: Will Ferrell
3/9: Rapper 50 Cent
3/18: Pacers Gaming’s Range & teammates
3/27: New Fever head coach Christie Sides
3/29: Indy Indians manager Miguel Perez
3/31: Fever forward Queen Egbo
4/5: Greg Oden
4/7: Season-ticket holder Steve Cage