We end 2016 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Ballpark Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #10: the successful inaugural season of the Savannah Bananas.
Starting from scratch and building a new baseball franchise isn’t easy. but it has been a magical year for the Savannah Bananas (summer collegiate; Coastal Plain League). The franchise excelled beyond anyone’s expectations, including its owners.
“They didn’t know us. They didn’t know that our games are more than just great baseball,” owner Jesse Cole said back in July. “People were intrigued by the name but when they come to games, they get it. Fans liked what we were doing and the word of mouth spread.”
In fact, it spread so much, the Bananas smashed the Coastal Plain League attendance record. The attendance record was set at 77,171 fans during the Peninsula Pilots’ 2014 season. By the end of the 2016 season, Savannah had attracted 91,004 fans. Not only did these numbers shatter the league record, they broke Grayson Stadium‘s average attendance record and marked the second highest amount of fans in all of summer collegiate baseball.
The team focuses on entertainment value and giving fans the best value for their money including its business model of $15 tickets including all-you-can-eat food. The team also adopting Daisy the bat dog and donated over $41,000 to local non-profit organizations by the end of the season.
It’s also no surprise that the team’s attention to detail and providing great experiences led to the team being named the Coastal Plain League Organization of the Year and both Jesse and his wife Emily being named the Coastal Plain League’s Executives of the Year.
“It’s been an amazing ride starting from scratch in Savannah last fall to winning the Championship in our first season,” the Coles said upon winning Executives of the Year. “We are truly humbled by the outpouring of support from the community.”
With this just being the first year on their five-year lease, time will only tell how successful the Bananas will be but if this year is any indication, they will be a fixture in the Savannah community for many years to come.