Slammers’ objective to increase attendance
By Dick Goss email@example.com December 11, 2012 9:18PM
The Joliet Slammers CEO Josh Schaub speaks about the new ownership and new general manager at media day in the Hall of Fame room at Silver Cross Field in Joliet, Illinois, Tuesday, December 11, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 13, 2013 6:20AM
Bill Lee chose his words carefully.
The Frontier League commissioner had always spoken well of the previous Joliet Slammers management team, and he wanted to continue casting them in a positive light.
However, Tuesday’s media day in the Hall of Fame room at Silver Cross Field was all about introducing the new ownership group, Joliet Community Baseball & Entertainment, LLC, headed by CEO Josh Schaub.
“These guys are here for a reason,” Lee said. “From a business standpoint, I guess the way to say it is people here will like what they see from them.”
Including concerts, special events and activities before and after games.
“We have big plans for more than baseball,” Schaub said.
Yet for the Slammers to succeed, fans must attend a game, enjoy themselves and return.
After winning the Frontier League championship in 2011, their first season, the Slammers fell to a 37-58 record in 2012. They drew 104,109 fans in 47 dates, an average of 2,213.
That ranked eighth in the 14-team Frontier League. Traverse City led with an average attendance of 3,506, followed by Gateway at 3,207. The other teams in northern Illinois, Schaumburg and Windy City, averaged 2,515 and 1,873, respectively. The league norm was 2,387.
The Frontier League again will have 14 teams in 2013. Lee said the Frontier Greys, who began last season in London, Ontario, will be a full-time travel team so the other 13 teams will pick up a few additional home games.
“Our ultimate goal is to increase attendance,” Schaub said, declining to disclose specific numbers. “Minor league baseball is about fan-friendly, affordable, family entertainment. That’s what we want to bring.”
“All we can ask for is improved attendance and financial stability,” Lee said of Joliet’s franchise. “Ideally, each team in the league will get what it wants.”
The Kane County Cougars play in Geneva and are long-time members of the Class A Midwest League. They may not have attracted many potential Joliet fans in the past, but what about next season, when they will be a Cubs’ farm club for the first time?
“Our fans are the Joliet fans and the surrounding communities,” Schaub said. “Kane County will not affect us. They are not a threat to us.”
While Schaub spoke early and often about uses for Silver Cross Field besides baseball, he said, “On the baseball side, we are looking at the food. We will be creative when we unveil some packages with food and game tickets.”
“Measuring success is all about the total package,” Lee said. “Our teams have had great success through their entertainment packages. Gateway averages well over 3,000 fans and they advertise their food everywhere. It’s been on the Food Channel, on Man vs. Food. It has worked for them.”
Chris Franklin, recently announced as the Slammers general manager, discussed the team’s other priorities.
“A field manager and the rest of the field staff is vital to our success,” Franklin said. “We hope to have a manager in place before Christmas; we know we already have good talent on the club.
“Becoming part of this community is big right now. The right field manager is very important as well.”
The Slammers also announced additional hires and promotions Tuesday. Assistant general manager and director of business Matt Gaddis has come aboard along with box office manager Heather Mills. Kelli Drechsel has been promoted to assistant general manager and Aaron Morse has been promoted to director of broadcasting and media relations. Ken Miller remains director of special projects and 2012 Frontier League Groundskeeper of the Year Guy Massaro retains his post.