As their 2019 season progresses, the Savannah Bananas (summer collegiate; Coastal Plain League) are continuing a multi-year sellout streak that has seen fans turn out in droves to Grayson Stadium.
Since beginning play at Grayson Stadium in 2016, the Bananas have emerged as a success story under owners Jesse and Emily Cole. The team has set several Coastal Plain League attendance records, and is in the midst of a sellout streak that dates back to its inaugural season and reached 73 games on Friday. With all remaining home games in the 2019 campaign sold out, the Bananas are on track to extend that streak to 88 games once the regular season concludes.
Ever since they replaced the Savannah Sand Gnats (Low A; Sally League) at Grayson Stadium–the Sand Gnats moved to Columbia, SC after the 2015 season, becoming the Columbia Fireflies and opening a new ballpark– the Bananas have offered fans an energetic gameday atmosphere that places an emphasis on entertainment. Fans have responded positively, putting the Bananas in a position for success. More from the Savannah Morning News:
“If we are a live television show, and that is what we want to be,” [Jesse] Cole said. “We’re Saturday Night Live. Each night is a little different, but we never know how it’s going to turn out. People could mess up or people could get something wrong, and we love it because it’s real. It’s a constant effort to be genuine and to bring the fun back to the ballpark every time we open the gates.”
Four years ago, when they brought the Bananas franchise to a then baseball-less Savannah, the couple promised to return the power back to the fans. They insisted that nobody, at any level of baseball, had ever done what they were planning to do.
“I think it can work in other markets but (Savannah) is the perfect place and (2016) was the perfect time for it to start working,” Cole said last week of the fan-focused plan orchestrated by his company Fans First Entertainment.
“I think, coming off what happened before us, when it was just baseball-focused, Savannah needed something fun. Everyone needs more fun, man. So when fans come out and see the players having fun, and they see the employees having fun and us as the owners, when they see us having fun — people just embrace that. The key piece is that unlike minor league teams and even big-league teams, us and the fans are in this thing together. It isn’t us versus them in terms of pricing and revenue, it’s all for one and one for all.”
For a closer look at the Bananas’ operations and how they emphasize a high-energy atmosphere at Grayson Stadium (even during rain outs), see this 2018 story from our own Mark Cryan.
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