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SI Yankees poised for breakout?

Staten Island ferris wheel

When the NY-Penn League added teams in Brooklyn and Staten Island, the assumption was that both franchises would prosper. While the Cyclones have been a tremendous success, the SI Yankees have faced plenty of challenges. But with development and new leadership, success could come in the next two years.

It should been a slam dunk: with a riverfront ballpark, thousands of commuters departing the nearby Staten Island Ferry at gametime and the breathtaking Manhattan skyline, the crowds should have been packing Richmond County Bank Ballpark. But that’s not been the case, and for the most part the team has been underperforming, first under Mandalay Baseball Properties/New York Yankees ownership and more recently under Nostalgic Partners ownership.

But a few things are changing. First, the ballpark will be flanked by two attractions — NY Wheel and Empire Outlets — next season and in 2017 that will bring more folks to the area, especially on weekends. Second, Nostalgic Partners has improved its front office with the hiring of Will Smith, who was central to the success of the Trenton Thunder (Class AA; Eastern League) as COO/GM the past several years. There was a price to pay — Smith bought into team ownership as a condition of his hiring — but he has a definitely vision of how the ballpark should be run: not just as a baseball home, but a year-round attraction. From Staten Island Live:

“Minor league baseball is a great business to be in and I think my time in Trenton has prepared me for something like this,” said the 42-year-old Smith. “I just feel fortunate to be joining the Staten Island Yankees and being a part of a group like this.”

His vision for the future?

“Honestly, it’s to drive revenue,” said Smith. “Try to find additional people to come to the ballpark, try to reach out to different groups we haven’t contacted in a while, increase the operation while trying to make it more efficient. I think it’s been struggling for a little bit so I feel fortunate to be the person to accept this challenge. I just can’t wait to jump in with both feet and not look back.”

It should be interesting to see how the team and ballpark develop — the ballpark is one of the most scenic in all of baseball.

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