I have gained a very unique perspective during this trip, I have witnessed first hand what is happening at the ballpark all over the country. What is working and what isn’t working. I am understanding the business side of running a baseball stadium, why the majority of the minor leagues teams have a “baseball entertainment complex” in mind when they pursue and get a new ball park. I know immediately which teams understand the word hospitality, which ones are working towards educating all of their team members and the ball clubs that have no idea what the word means. Within five minutes of arriving I fully understand the entertainment I will be receiving.
I have not done a study and this is a total guess but I would say that 75% of the minor league teams have variations of the same “fan” experience, the stadium, the mascot, the routines between innings, the videos on the scoreboard. A lot are incorporating the “bouncy” houses and basketball courts for the kids, throw in a water feature to run through, etc… you get the idea. I am not saying this is a bad idea, I actually like it, Martie Cordero from the Omaha Storm Chasers changed my opinion. 99.9% of baseball fans will never do what I am doing, they will just go to the local teams game and thus will think this is unique to their team.
With the minor league teams it has to be entertainment for the entire family in mind, the baseball game might be the center piece but most young kids will get bored after a half inning, they need additional entertainment so their parents can either watch the game or socialize with friends. Ball parks have become part amusement park for all the different ages. The more people you can draw the more money the team makes, it isn’t really about the baseball game, as one team President put it to me the other day, “Our fan isn’t going to remember how we did last July, like they do about the top club, bottom line is revenue generation”. Get the fan hooked on the fun mascot and the great looking gear!
I won’t argue that it needs to happen in the minor league game, players I have talked to have stated that the winning feels different, you still root for your team but it is just different. Most fans feel the same way, favorite players come and go during the season. However, I feel there are venues that need to not cave to the pressures of the “baseball entertainment complex” mentality. Places like Helena and Bakersfield, they need to continue to embrace what they have, improve where they can but not to forget about the traditional baseball experience. There are many more beautiful minor league experiences that have perfected this, if you are ever in San Jose make sure to get to a Giants game, I loved the fact that they upgraded without killing the history, they utilized the old park. Vancouver is upgrading but not tearing down what they have, they are trying different things before going the rout of a new place.
I have traveled around the country I have been able to see first hand that as a country we have gotten kind of homogenous in the majority of regions with all the Starbucks, Wal-Mart’s, Applebee’s, Olive Gardens, etc… sometimes I look around and have to ask where I am because it could be Milwaukee or Seattle by the ubiquity of the stores. I have talked about everything above for a reason; the best fan experience I have had at Mississippi State, the Left Field Lounge, is going to be changing. It makes me sad, the Left Field Lounge (as goofy as this will sound) is breathtaking. There has been nothing like it, Clemson and Southern Miss were similar. The powers that be, probably lawyers and administrators, fearing a lawsuit and wanting more revenue have decided to present a plan that on its face is very nice, they came up with the “Left Field Lofts”. As nice as this is, MSU will now become as sterile an experience as the rest of the teams that have created these clean and organized complexes. Fans will still come and support their teams, LSU fans come to mind. But what it does is take away from the tradition and independence of what these fans had. Mississippi State fans love their baseball team and their allegiance won’t change, but it is hard for me to believe that their rabidity won’t diminish.
Clemson incorporated the “Cheap Seats” bus into their new field, it is a fun experience but it is not like it used to be, Southern Miss has the “The Roost”, to me they have the go to experience if things change at MSU. The author John Grisham wrote about a time a player from another team stood in wonderment and was speechless besides mouthing “unbelievable” over and over when he first saw and was brought back to “The Left Field Lounge”, I had the same experience. Click here for Grisham’s story. I am an outsider, I am not an Alum, I understand the allure to something “new” but it will be the same experience with a slightly different twist of places all over the United States. I would urge the “power” brokers to reconsider changing Dudy Noble. Mississippi State has set all the attendance records in modern college baseball, I personally think that will change. Fenway Park improved when upgraded, Wrigley Field needs upgrades, it can be done. However, currently in my estimation there is absolutely nothing wrong with the way Dudy Noble is, we worry way to much about things that can happen, we then change them into sterile experiences… The Left Field Lounge is one of the most authentic experiences I have ever been a part of, the MSU fans some of the most welcoming, I didn’t pay much attention to the game until the end, I made some friends that I still stay in contact with, I will come back to MSU no matter what happens.
I just want some tradition to be preserved, I was looking forward to bring some of my northern friends to MSU to witness one of the best spectacles in sports and to meet some of the most fun loving fans, it will be a harder sell without the Left Field Lounge…
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