For their contributions as owners of the Gastonia Grizzlies and Savannah Bananas, Jesse and Emily Cole have earned the Coastal Plain League‘s Executives of the Year.
The Coles run both teams through their company, Fans First Entertainment. Savannah was already recognized by the CPL, having won its Organization of the Year for 2016.
“Jesse and Emily continue to be valuable owners and operators in the Coastal Plain League,” said CPL COO/Commissioner Justin Sellers. “Like many in our league, they put in countless hours of dedication into making their franchises and the League the best. This year, with the job they did in Savannah, they proved to be highly successful in all areas; and helped grow the League’s exposure in the great state of Georgia, and on a national level. This recognition serves to honor their effort, time, heart, and creativity – as well as that of their staff – and we look forward to what 2017 has in store.”
Both Gastonia and Savannah are managed by Jesse and Emily’s company Fans First Entertainment, a sentiment the two worked very hard to prove to their new market of Savannah. It is one thing to move to a new market that is eager for baseball, it is another to enter a market with a storied history of minor league franchises. This was a task the Coles and their staff took seriously and soon enough they had won the community over by showing them high quality baseball on the field as well as unmatched entertainment from start to finish.
“We are so honored to be recognized by the CPL,” said Jesse and Emily. “It’s been an amazing ride starting from scratch in Savannah last fall to winning the Championship in our first season. We are truly humbled by the outpouring of support from the community.”
Their championship was not the only thing worth celebrating by season’s end. The Bananas took over historic Grayson Stadium and produced not only the highest attendance numbers in Coastal Plain League history, but the second highest in all of summer collegiate baseball. Their numbers also marked the highest average attendance in the history of the stadium itself – of which has been home to multiple minor league franchises including most recently the Savannah Sand Gnats. In total, the Bananas brought in 91,004 fans across 25 home dates and three playoff games for an average of 3,250 fans each night. Included in this was 18 sellouts, coming out to a sellout percentage of 64% of all home games in a stadium with a capacity of over 4,000.
The Cole’s did not stop there either, it was important to them that they become a part of this new community and so they uprooted their lives in Gastonia and bought a home in Savannah. They emphasized community involvement with their players, coaches and staff, all of which led to the team raising over $41,000 for non-profits within Savannah in 2016 alone.
“We are so fortunate to have an amazing staff, led by President Jared Orton, who care so much about the fans and the community,” Jesse and Emily went on. “We are tremendously grateful and can’t wait to see the future at Grayson Stadium.”
While this honor is in great part due to their overwhelming success in building a franchise from the ground of in Savannah, it would be a disservice not to mention the Cole’s other franchise, the Gastonia Grizzlies. Even with a new franchise taking up a great deal of their time they were able, with the help of a great staff in Gastonia, produce the league’s second-best attendance average at 1,968 fans per game – giving Fans First Entertainment and the Cole’s the top two attendance teams by average in the league for 2016.