After a successful opening for Impact Field, new home of the Chicago Dogs (independent; American Association), there’s one question that needs to be addressed: How will this high-profile facility impact Chicagoland baseball?
The opening saw a sellout crowd put the Impact Field operations through their paces, and by and large things went well. The crowd did exactly what the ballpark’s designers intended: they took advantage of the open, airy design by using the many drink rails and tables surrounding the playing field. The fans at Impact Field were decked out in a variety of baseball gear from the Cubs, White Sox and Dogs.
If the Dogs can continue attracting good crowds to Impact Field, there’s the distinct chance that Impact Field will heavily impact Chicagoland baseball. Yes, that could conceivably include the Cubs and the White Sox.
Right now there is only a single Minor League Baseball team in the western Chicago burbs: the Kane County Cougars, the Low-A Midwest League affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, playing out of Geneva’s Northwestern Medicine Field. Closer to Impact Field is the independent Frontier League’s Schaumburg Boomers, playing out of Boomers Stadium some 16 miles away. There’s also independent baseball in Joliet and Crestwood, but those cities are farther afield and not direct competitors to Impact Field.
There’s no doubt Impact Field has already impacted the Boomers and the Cougars. Boomers Stadium is slated for $10.5 million in upgrades that will both improve the fan experience and allow the Boomers to generate more revenue on non-game days. Kane County Cougars owner Dr. Bob Froehlich is looking to move forward with a plan that calls for $9 million in upgrades to Northwestern Medicine Field. The Boomers lead the Frontier League in attendance and offer a very good game day experience, and the Cougars’ bread and butter for years has been group sales. Now, it’s possible both plans would have been proposed if Impact Field never existed—but that’s not very likely.
For Rosemont Mayor Bradley A. Stephens and Dogs Chief Marketing and Entertainment Officer Tim McBride, it’s not necessarily about any competition when it comes to the Dogs and Chicagoland—it’s about growing the baseball market in western Chicagoland
“We didn’t do this to compete with other baseball teams,” Stephens said of his three-year quest to bring pro baseball to Rosemont’s burgeoning entertainment district. Instead, he said, city leaders and Dogs management were focused on providing a great fan experience and promoting baseball in western Chicagoland.
“If we do a good job of growing the pie, we’ll grow the entire baseball market—and that’s good for everyone,” McBride added.
And yes, that could end up impacting the Cubs and the White Sox. With SRO tickets or bleacher seats, a family of four can attend a Dogs game for less than $40. Add in another $60 in concessions, and that family of four will have spent $100 on a night’s entertainment—roughly akin to attending a movie or dining out at a good restaurant. That same $100 will get you a couple of tickets and a beer for the cheapest Wrigley Field seats ($37 for Upper Reserved Outfield). The economics are better for Guaranteed Rate Field, where $100 will get you four ducats and parking for a White Sox game. For both Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field, there is a significant hassle factor, especially coming in from the western suburbs. And while there’s always something special about an MLB game, it’s not something the average suburban family will do regularly. Indeed, for the price of a family of four to head to Wrigley Field, they can attend three Dogs games and have some money left in their pockets.
But, given the economics of Impact Field (or Boomers or Cougars baseball, for that matter), the point is creating a fun alternative to movies and dining out. And that will be the biggest impact of Impact Field: by providing a great experience, competition will force the Boomers and Cougars to do that much better in entertaining fans.
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