Despite playing a losing season so far, the organization is expected to break attendance records again this year.
Last year, the team saw a record 328,000 fans, up almost 10 percent from the previous year, and despite a cold, rainy start this year, game day sales so far have been consistent with last year, and are expected to rise along with the summer temperatures.
That’s music to the ears of President and General Manager Tony Ensor, who is hoping to see a return on the team’s $9 million in upgrades to the ballpark over the last five years.
Gas prices and a slowly recovering economy seem to be working in his favor.
“Fewer people were taking the big vacations,” Ensor said. “They stayed in town more and saw the Sky Sox as a family outlet.”
With the economy the way it is, a season like last season would be considered a success, Ensor said.
The team’s prices are the lowest in the Pacific Coast League. Non-discounted seats sell for $12 for lower box and $9 for upper reserved.
Fans should be even happier with one of the latest upgrades, a new point-of –sale system that accepts credit and debit cards, available at all the major concession operations, which helps eliminate long ATM lines.
The facility upgrades are significant, considering the league is unable to lure people with the promise of seeing a certain player, due to the numerous player transactions between the Sky Sox and its major league affiliate, the Colorado Rockies. With an estimated 150 to 170 player transactions a year between the two leagues, the Sox have to rely more on the “experience” of the game, which is why they have daily promotions, like Kids Eat Free days, $2 Tuesdays and 50-cent hot dog days.
Without promotions from ESPN or major league stations, marketing becomes more important.
“With our limited budget that we have to spend, we try to reinforce the $2 Tuesday. Instead of hitting them with something new, we’re reminding them,” Ensor said. “A lot of the reasons we do have success is because we do offer an affordable option,” said Ensor.
And it’s hard to replicate the baseball game experience.
“There is nothing quite like a minor league game — cheap tickets, drinks and hot dogs and fun antics between innings that only ‘fit’ at a minor league game,” said Geoff Peters, a Sox fan.
Winning, of course, adds to the experience, but in Triple-A baseball, it’s certainly not everything.
The Sox finished its record-setting 2010 season with a 64-79 record.
Still, Ensor says it’s the love of baseball that will help the Sky Sox thrive even as the economy recovers.
“You can look back at tough times,” he said. “There’s always been baseball.”