Silver Knights still growing

NASHUA – The numbers on the field, as in wins and losses, weren’t exactly what the Nashua Silver Knights were planning on.

But the numbers off the field? A lot better.

The Futures Collegiate Baseball League team president Tim Bawmann said the franchise will likely finish in the black for a second straight year.

Why? In part because of increased sales and attendance. According to Bawmann, while the paid attendance average of 1,375 was five people higher than last year, the team’s best ever and fourth in the league, the number of fans actually in the seats for each home game was up by 100, to an average of 900 per night.

And Bawmann values tickets used more than tickets sold.

“I’m a butts-in-the-seats guy,” Bawmann said. “I could care less about the paid number. The first year had 675 actual people in the seats, and now we’re at 900. You see the progression, it goes up ever year.

“We were really close to my budget numbers across the board. If we had had that one extra playoff game, we probably would have hit 90 percent of our budget numbers.”

Bawmann says perhaps next year the team could even reach 1,000 in actual fans in the park every night, but it won’t be easy.

“That would be a good goal to shoot for,” he said. “I don’t know realistically we could make that big of a jump, but we almost did this year.

“If we get to the point where we get 1,000 people in the seats every night this club is going to do really well and we’ll continue to do the Gregory Campbells (Bruins) and Aly Raismans (Olympic gymnast) appearances, because they do cost us money.”

What was impressive in the team officials’ eyes were that four of the top five paid crowds the team has ever had came this season, including an announced draw of 3,020 on July 18. Opening Night, the recently held Boston Bruins Night, and one other night during the summer drew more than 2,500.

The Bruins night, although tickets used was not announced, may have been the most fans ever actually in the ballpark for a Silver Knights game.

What to attribute the
increase to? Season tickets were at around 180, a good number for an FCBL team, and the use of the luxury suites was up an astounding 150 percent. Corporate sales were up 30 percent, Bawmann said.

The team focused on luxury suite sales in the off-season, but they picked up when general manager Ronnie Wallace scrapped the non-traditional suite menu for more ballpark-type fare. “Then the revenue started kicking over in terms of food and beverage sales as well,” Bawmann said.

Walk-up tickets sold were down, but Bawmann isn’t too concerned about that even though Nashua has always been thought of as a walk-up market.

“When you’re walk-up number goes down but your attendance goes down, that tells you people are buying more tickets in advance, which is good,” Bawmann said.

The successful nights of the teams are pretty easily spotted: fans turn out for the celebrity appearances, they turn out for the Thursday night dollar beverage nights, and Friday fireworks nights.

The disappointment? Saturday nights. The team averaged under 1,000 paid attendance on Saturdays, and it became a mystery. Only one of four Saturdays drew over 1,000.

“We haven’t had a chance yet to really analyze what happened on Saturday,” Bawmann said, adding perhaps some appearance nights may be moved to that night. “We’ve got to do a better job of getting people in here on Saturday nights.”

Also, Bawmann said, the team needs to improve on its group sales, calling them “stagnant and flat.” Thus the goal, Vice President of Marketing Jon Goode said, will be to focus on groups the way the club focused on suites and season tickets this past year.

“You want to increase where your focus is but you want to also maintain,” Goode said.

“We know there’s room for growth there,” Bawmann said, adding one issue may be the lack of bodies and dollars needed to do the job properly.

The team has two weekday games during the course of the year. One, Education Day, in the season’s first week, is popular. The second, Camp Day, usually in mid July, is not, and may be re-examined.

“I think we’re going to lose the Camp Day,” Goode said. “That’s one thing we’ll take a hard look at. But the Education Day will definitely stay.”

One other problem was concessions on the big nights. The team, Bawmann and Wallace said, badly needs a way to relieve the right field and home plate concession lines.

“On those big nights we can’t properly service the customer,” Wallace said. “The lines were absurdly long. We want to put a point of sale over on the left field side.”

That could be, Bawmann said, in the form of concession grill carts. Wallace says that the lines become too long once some 1,300 fans are in the park. Bawmann said the team will work to get the necessary city health department clearances.

“We have to figure out if that’s a combination of the city and the ball club to work out or is it solely on us,” Bawmann said. “But we’ll definitely have more points of sale.”

As Goode said, it’s a problem but “at the same time it’s a real good problem, it’s lines. It means people are here.”

The location of the Kids Area to right field rather than left functioned better for the team, Bawmann said, although usage was down. As for the picnic area beyond the left field brick wall, he says, it’s still a problem area, far from the stands with no bathroom facilities. “If we can create an easier access out there,” Bawmann said. “But that’s not on our priority list right now, it’s how we can service the fans in the main seating.”

Another goal of the team, it hopes in conjunction with the city and other entities that use Holman, is getting a new scoreboard. He plans on meeting with Park-Recreation officials first and then approach city officials with some type of plan. Bawmann is hoping some of the $1,000 a game lease payments the team makes could be used. The team is two years into a five-year deal, with a renewable option each year.

“It’s an amenity for the fans,” Bawmann said. “There aren’t many minor league ballparks – and this is a minor league ballpark – that don’t have some type of video board. I’m not talking bells and whistles. We don’t need a half-million dollar board here. But we need something (better) for the fans.”

How disappointing was it that the team had an early (one game) playoff exit?

“It was disappointing from a business standpoint,” Bawmann said. “We finished one game less (with 26 dates) than we had last year at home; the fact we beat the numbers across the board with one less home game is even more encouraging.

Also for our fans, our fans really like to win, it would have been nice to have one (playoff) game here.”

Bawmann said he would like to bring back manager Ted Currle,which would be, for a variety of circumstances, the first time the Silver Knights would have the same manager for two consecutive seasons.

“I like Ted,” he said. “Ted was really easy to work with. I don’t know what Ted’s plans are, he had a long commute (to the Norwood, Mass., area) after every game, so we need to kind of work through some of those logistics. But he was a big part of our team. I’d love to see some continuity.

“We’ve been lucky with B.J. (VP of Player Personnel Neverett). He’s been here all four years, and we never had to worry about that piece. But it seems like every year, we’re worried about who is going to be the skipper of the club. We’ve got Ronnie back (as general manager), but every year it seems we have moving pieces of the club; it’d be nice to get more continuity there.”

The goal now? Things are at a lull as Bawmann & Co. focus on the final couple of weeks of the other ballclub they run, the Lowell Spinners.

Then, around October, the 2015 sales packages will be put together and the work begins anew.

“We have to be more aggressive in the off-season,” Bawmann said. “We have to see more clients. Whether they’re advertisers, season ticket holders, suite holders, we need to get more engaged in the business community. There’s still a lot of people who don’t know who we are.’’

, and that’s the main challenge.”

Wallace became highly visible in the off season at business events, “and now it’s having the people I met introduce me to other people.”

Overall? The team wants the good trends to continue.

“We’re nowhere close to being satisfied,” Goode said. “We’ve got to keep pushing forward.”

“We’ve got time,” Bawmann said, “to sit back and come back even stronger.”