Chuck Domino, president, Lehigh Valley IronPigs
The Lehigh Valley (Pa.) IronPigs in less than six seasons have become a dominant force in Minor League Baseball despite playing in one of the smallest markets in Class AAA. The Philadelphia Phillies’ top farm club is poised to lead all of the affiliated minors in attendance for a fourth straight year, and the team last fall won MiLB’s prestigious Freitas Award for sustained business excellence. Chuck Domino, a three-decade veteran of the baseball business, is president of the IronPigs. He’s also chief executive manager of the Class AA Richmond (Va.) Flying Squirrels, helping to resurrect minor league baseball in that market in recent years.
We need to protect the brand we have built in our collective communities while taking advantage of certain opportunities.”
Secret of Lehigh Valley’s success: It’s really not a secret at all. Hard work and the introduction of unique ballpark features such as the Tiki Terrace, the Hot Corner, the Bacon Strip [all seating areas] and the “urinal games” in an already beautiful ballpark in a strong market with the appropriate affiliation is a winning combination. We have always chosen to reinvest in the facility rather than just relying on tweaking the promotional calendar or the advertising mix.
MiLB attendance trends: It has kind of leveled off after a couple of decades of consistent growth. We are limited by a fixed number of games, a fixed number of weekends, a similar balance of games each month from year to year, the size of the markets and ballparks we play in, less new stadiums being constructed, and the continual competition from other entertainment options. The teams that excel in group sales are the ones most likely to maintain an established level of attendance.
Effect of extended bad weather: It can contribute anywhere from disappointment to devastation. It is a rarity when a rainout can result in net positive revenue because we are able to schedule a doubleheader later in the season. We do budget for a couple of rainouts every season, but we never expected the type of weather we’ve had this season. Once we fall behind, it is a game of catch-up all season since we budget for a high percentage of capacity. There is simply not enough inventory remaining to give us a favorable chance to close the gap on the budgeted goal.
MiLB’s newer collective business efforts, such as BIRCO and Project Brand: Time will only tell, but staying the course certainly would not be the prudent thing to do. I think packaging our product as a whole is a measured risk worth taking.