Bombers’ attendance continues to spikeJuly 3, 2013
By JOHN PATISHNOCK
Herald Sports Writer
Attending a Dubois County Bombers game is becoming a social event for more and more residents in and out of the county. Emphasis on “social.”
That’s been the point for the last few years, as the stadium and team have undergone various marketing redesigns and new ownership. Everything was implemented with the endgame of doing away with barren sections of the stadium during games. The plan has worked.
In 2010, the Bombers averaged 277 fans a game before that number increased to 317 the following season. Last year, they drew around 361 per contest.
That last number has more than doubled so far this season, as the Bombers have averaged 826 fans per game through their first 13 contests.
A big reason for this increase is the team’s ability to sell corporate sponsorships, said Mike Uebelhor, part of the 13-member Dubois County Baseball LLC, which purchased the Bombers last season. The previous ownership groups didn’t cater to corporate sponsors, whose impact has been increasingly noticeable.
“We’re so fortunate to have the corporate sponsors and partners,” Uebelhor said. “It’s made a whale of a difference in our attendance.”
Four times this season, Dubois County has drawn at least 1,000 fans for a game and Uebelhor expects a possible crowd of 2,000 for Thursday night’s game that will feature fireworks afterward.
The Bombers have nine corporate sponsors lined up for Thursday’s game, the most they’ve ever boasted for one contest.
Some of the benefits of increased attendance are obvious. More people equals more money, which means the team has more possibilities to continue to sell its brand and stay competitive in the Ohio Valley League, which features the Bombers and five teams from Kentucky; Dubois County switched to the league this season after previously competing in the Prospect League.
A year ago, the team used a Bombers-styled, old-fashioned school bus, revamped uniforms, an old-time, hand-operated scoreboard and had character actors from “A League Of Their Own” perform during games. The bus has been retired, but the changes have continued this season, with new lettering linked to “A League Of Their Own” adorning the outside of the grandstands and the addition of a gift shop that’s open all year.
“The attempt is to provide entertainment not only on the baseball field but in the stands,” said Uebelhor, who estimated that 70 percent of the 11,750 corporate tickets that were distributed have been used.
Uebelhor said marketing and designing guru Kyle Kendall deserves most of the credit for the aesthetically pleasing atmosphere. Kendall became a minority owner this season after previously helping with marketing and promotions the last few years and creating game programs and logos while also designing the new uniforms the team wore last season.
A new season brings more changes. Kendall designed game tickets to feature a vintage look and also created posters and pocket cards that have the team’s schedule listed. More importantly, there’s a buzz about the Bombers.
“It’s been great,” Kendall said. “I think I’m more excited about the excitement and hearing people talk in town about the Bombers and hearing people say they’ve been at games.
“It’s good to see people excited.”
The change has been transparent, especially to players who recall playing in front of scant crowds in the past. Bo Ausmus, a middle infielder who’s in his second season with the Bombers, has noticed the spike in attendance. He and returning catcher Chris Tavares have talked of the difference, pointing out the change.
“It’s just a great atmosphere, it’s a lot better,” Ausmus said.
“It’s easier to get going for the game when there’s more people in the stands. The other teams in the league, they don’t have what we have here.”
Ausmus noted there have been contests at Marion, a member of the six-team Ohio Valley League, when only 30 or 40 fans were in the stands. He added that a bad night for attendance at Bombers’ games usually represents the best crowd an opposing team draws at its own venue.
Uebelhor tracks the attendance for each game, updating the season average right after each home contest. Thursday night, he made his rounds around the grandstand as girls dressed in Rockford Peaches garb line-danced to the country music song “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” a ritual for every game at League Stadium. Some of the fans stood up and joined in the fun.
The scene was a mix of baseball, music and harmless shenanigans, a formula that’s germane with what draws fans to League Stadium.
“The overall point that I pick up is the fact that people can come in with very inexpensive entertainment and step into a period of time that was much less hectic,” Uebelhor said, “and for three hours be entertained like it was in the 1940s and ’50s.”
Contact John Patishnock at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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