Mascot Muggsy and visitors celebrate a winning season.
Fans compete in a variety of contests between innings.
the past we were heavily walk-up driven, which is why weather affected us so much ... It’s great when we have great weather, but we’re focused on selling as many tickets before game one as possible.” Shelton’s approach brought results last year. After three years without drawing more than 5,000 for a game, the Salem Red Sox accomplished that feat three times last year. Its two playoff games at home each drew more than 4,000 fans, making them the highest atPhoto courtesy Salem Red Sox
tended playoff games in the Carolina League last year. This year, Shelton is aiming for going sell-out crowds. Last year the team hosted five fireworks nights; in 2014 that number will increase to 13, including every Friday night. It’s booked the ZOOperstars!, a family-friendly sports entertainment act of large inflatable mascots that do things such as eat team staff members. “What we’re doing is using our promotion schedule to create enticing games at night, with
fireworks and giveaways and acts coming in,” Shelton says. “The sales reps are building around those promotions.” There’s also a renewed focus on group sales. By February 2013, the sales staff had sold 250 group tickets. At the same point this year, sales were up to 5,000 group tickets. Group sales aren’t just dumped on low-traffic nights either. Shelton instructed the sales team to direct groups to the biggest nights. “Instead of putting a group on a Tuesday night, when you put that same group on a Friday night, suddenly that group becomes 200 instead of 100 because there’s more excitement,” Shelton says. “We’re manufacturing large crowds,” he says. “Some nights we won’t have as great of crowds, but in my experience, sellouts beget sellouts. If we have a night with that kind of energy and excitement, people leave talking about it. Every person becomes a walking advertisement.” The team makes money from more than ticket sales. There are concession sales, sponsorships and merchandise in the team store. In Shelton’s experience, though, it all comes back to tickets. Fans spend roughly $10 per capita on food. The more fans, the more food sales. The more fans, the more merchandise is sold. The higher the attendance per game, the more the team can charge for sponsorships. The city of Salem benefits financially from the team, too. Its contract with the Red Sox nets annual stadium rent of $22,500, plus monthly front office rent, 1 percent of gross ticket proceeds up to $800,000 and 10 percent over that, and roughly half of any revenue from skybox rentals. The team provides employment for about 250 people. Most of them work seasonally and parttime, but there also are 12 to 15 full-time employees and interns in the front office who work most or all of the year. Then there are the myriad ROANOKE BUSINESS