There is something to be said for consistency, and how some Minor League Baseball teams excel at attracting fans year in and year out. One of the best examples of this trend is the Birmingham Barons (Class AA; Southern League), who outdid themselves in 2016, earning Ballpark Digest’s 2016 Team of the Year Award.
“It’s a reflection of the organization, the ownership, the Logan family, the staff, and the great operations we have here,” said Barons general manager Jonathan Nelson.
While the Barons have been a solid draw throughout their history, the team has had a remarkable pattern of success since 2013, the year Regions Field opened. After averaging more than 5,600 fans per game since the ballpark’s opening, the Barons have attracted a per-game average of more than 6,000 fans in each of the last three seasons, including a Southern League-leading mark of 6,063 in 2016. That includes the Barons’ single-game attendance record of 8,607 fans set on May 21.
Overall, the Barons broke their single-season attendance record three times in 2016. Additionally, the team sold out seven games during the season.
When asked where he believed the Barons made the most progress this year, Nelson cited the team’s promotional slate. The Barons hosted two Star Wars nights, traveling acts like the Zooperstars and Jake the Diamond Dog, and weekly specials such as Thirsty Thursday. In addition, the team once against hosted the Rickwood Classic, an annual and successful event at Rickwood Field that has become one of the best traditions in the minors.
“I believe that what we did this year more than ever before was focus on our promotional operations. We had so much positive momentum at the beginning of the season that we shattered our single-game attendance record a few times,” said Nelson, who also cited the team’s sales efforts as major reason for its success. “It’s attributed not only to the promotions, but the group sales, and the season ticket sales.”
This year, we visited Regions Field and came away with a positive review, not only of the ballpark experience but the surrounding area. Surrounded by nearby attractions such as Railroad Park, the Birmingham Southern Negro League Museum, and Good People Brewing Company, Regions Field has been a key part of bringing more activity to downtown Birmingham. Development around Regions Field took another step forward, when The Venue—an apartment building that overlooks the ballpark—opened in the spring.
“When you come to Regions Field, it’s not just about coming to a Barons game, but it’s about experiencing the entire area,” Nelson said. “It’s a sense of civic pride.”
With an emphasis on providing quality entertainment and embracing the amenities in the surrounding area, the Barons and Regions Field should be in line for more success in the future. “This ballpark is something that’s going to be here for the long haul in downtown Birmingham.” Nelson said. “We’ve been very fortunate. We have a very good staff that is focused on raising the bar on everything that we do.”
Photo by Zach Spedden.
Previous 2016 Award Winners:
Executive of the Year: Chris Allen
Charity Award: Omaha Storm Chasers
Promotion of the Year: My Big Fat Fresno Wedding Show
Best New Logo/Branding: Columbia Fireflies
Best Ballpark Renovation (Over $10 Million): The Outfield Apartments
Best Ballpark Improvement (Over $1 Million): The Choctaw Lazy River
Best Ballpark Improvement (Under $1 Million): The Perch
Broadcaster of the Year: Sean Aronson, St. Paul Saints
Ballpark of the Year: Spirit Communications Park