With the beginning of the season right around the corner, (opening day is April 4th), the Colorado Springs Sky Sox are gearing up for what could be a season of milestones. The catch is, that might represent a year for the record books, or one just remembered as “that 2002 season.”
The Sky Sox currently have two Pacific Coast League championships under their belt, coming during the 1992 and 1995 seasons. More importantly, over the past two seasons, the Sky Sox have set attendance records with over 255,000 fans in the 2000 season, and 269,904 in the 2001 season. Over that period, the Sox finished 2nd and last respectively.
This year, setting a third straight attendance record may also mean the Sox are en route to a third league title. With the economy down dramatically compared to last year, it may not be possible for a last place team to raise enough eyebrows from its fans to ensure a third straight record. So what type of finish might the Sox need to keep the streak alive? Well, it might not be as simple as more wins than losses. Fielding a championship team and cooperation from Mother Nature are not the only obstacles that the Sox will have to contend with this year.
“In all the years I’ve been here, this is the toughest one to do business in,” said Sky Sox General Manager Bob Goughan. “It’s been a struggle to get clients. Companies that are struggling are finding the place to cut is sport sponsorship. We do business with a lot of mid-sized companies that are feeling the heat.”
This leaves the Sox in a rather precarious situation. They already have a steady base of season ticket holders, but without some of the sponsors that have helped finance such promos as Louisville Slugger bat giveaway day and Computer Geek Day, the Sox may not be able to fill the stadium as consistently as they have for the last two years.
Crippled by a tough economic backdrop and with the challenge of sustaining record attendance, one would imagine that the Sox are scrambling to come up with a game plan to make this season a three-peat. However, the strategy the Sox are going to employ may seem fairly familiar to some of the quarter million people who took in a game last year.
The Sox don’t really plan on changing much of anything, but rest assured they haven’t become complacent with their two attendance records, nor are they so cocky as to believe that the recession doesn’t apply to them.
The Sox aren’t changing anything because they are going with what got them here. They don’t plan on bowing down to the economy, either. Sponsors or no sponsors, the Sox are going to run the same promos and daily events that led them to success for the last two years.
In addition to continuing Family Pack Sundays, Big Money Mondays, two dollar Tuesdays, Weiner Wednesdays and Thirsty Thursdays from last year, the Sox have added Fireworks Fridays (beginning every Friday after June 1st). Each show will rival any Fourth of July show they have ever delivered. “Bark in the Park” will get a boost by accompanying every Weiner Wednesday (after June 1st), and the weekend promos, such as pre-game autograph signings and T-shirt giveaways will continue uninterrupted by a possible lack of sponsors.
The Sox believe their success the last couple of seasons came from entrenching themselves as part of the Colorado Springs collective community. “Bark in the Park” sprang from the point of view that a trip to Sky Sox Stadium was an affordable night of family fun. The only problem was that one of the most important members of the family, Rover, was being left out.
This very promotion sums up what the Sox have been doing to get John Q. Public into the stands. They understand that their roster is at the whim of the Rockies and that one game’s hero may never run the bases on their diamond again. With that thought tattooed on their jersies, the front office decided long ago to market the Sky Sox as a family experience with baseball as a by-product and backdrop.
As far as a lack of sponsorship goes, Gabe Ross, Director of Public Relations for the Sky Sox, explained that the Sox annually canvas the town and they never neglect the little guy. “You don’t have to be Coors or Pepsi to be a part of the Sky Sox family.” Likewise, Ross explained that their promo schedule is a living, breathing entity not set in stone until just before the beginning of the season. “If we have a sponsor that has a good idea, we try and sit down with them and make it work.”
With all of this flexibility already built into the Sky Sox promotion strategy, maybe they are right to just leave well enough alone.
Let’s now turn our attention to whether or not the Sox can contribute a winning season to their attendance crusade. It’s hard to look at the Sky Sox’ chances without first looking at the Rockies. We all know that the Rox live and die on the mound. But, with the off-season addition of Pete Harnisch and a healthy Scott Elarton, the starting rotation of Mike Hampton, Denny Neagle, Mark Thompson and Ron Chacon may be better than it has ever been. This should translate into a much more stable 2002 Sky Sox team, and maybe even that season of milestones.