For the 11 straight years, the Lakewood BlueClaws have led the South Atlantic League in attendance, drawing families, small groups and individuals with promotions and affordable entertainment.
But without local businesses getting involved, general manager Geoff Brown said the stadium would be “tough to fill” every night.
Brown said strong partnerships with local businesses is what drove the club to open the Kimball Medical Center Champions Club, which combined three individual skyboxes at FirstEnergy Park into one indoor group viewing area.
“It went very, very well. You can’t say it added to the total attendance too much, because it only seats 50, so there’s only 3,500 seats available (through the season),” Brown said. “But we definitely exceeded what we thought we were going to do going into year one.”
Brown said the Champion’s Club was filled all but a few games during the 2011 season, and he expects the space to sell out quickly for the 2012 season. The team will hit the 5 million attendance marker sometime early next season.
“We started showing it in March at some of our business after-hours (events) we had here at the ballpark, and there was an immediate tremendous reaction,” he said. “It’s one more hospitality area at the ballpark that the business community has been asking for.”
Brown said the new facility hosted everything from political fundraisers and birthday parties to corporate hospitality events. The team’s chiropractor rented the club to host clients and employees.
“There’s great local partnerships, and local, regional and, in some cases, national businesses found that it’s a great way to entertain or advertise here at the ballpark in front of other fans.” Brown said. “We’re going to draw a lot of families, we’re going to draw a lot of individuals and groups, but without the business community support, it makes it tougher to fill up the ballpark.”