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Baseball team could pour $3M into Springfield economy

The Champion City Kings baseball franchise could pump about $3 million into the local economy this summer, according to local tourism officials.

The Kings, members of the collegiate wooden bat Prospect League, will host the Chillicothe Paints in its inaugural game at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Carleton Davidson Stadium.

The numbers are based on projected attendance and tourism multipliers, said Chris Schutte, the director of marketing and the Convention and Visitors Bureau for the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.

The larger the crowds become, the greater the economic effect the team could have on Springfield and Clark County, Schutte said. He estimated a season average attendance of 500 people per game over the 30 home games this season.

“It adds another layer to quality of life,” he said. “In the larger picture, it helps you to attract and retain talent here and attract businesses.”

The teams, parents and scouts will likely stay multiple nights at area hotels, Schutte said, eat at local restaurants, spend money at stores and purchase gas.

“Those are all different pieces to that puzzle,” he said.

The games will also draw local attendees from Clark County and surrounding areas, Schutte said.

“They’ll be spending recreational leisure dollars on something where, if it didn’t exist, they wouldn’t be spending,” he said.

The key is attracting more and more people to the stadium, Kings General Manager Rick White said. He called 500 attendees per game a fair estimate for the first season.

The team plans to do more advertising in the future and wants to have 800 people per game in future seasons.

“There’s still a lot of people out there that don’t know about the Champion City Kings,” White said.

A championship-caliber team will also boost attendance, White said.

“It makes people want to come and be a part of it,” he said.

Franchises around the region – such as the Dayton Dragons, Columbus Clippers and Cincinnati Reds – attract fans well, Schutte said. The Kings provide an outlet for entertainment locally that will build over time.

“There’s still an appetite for baseball,” Schutte said.

Visitors to Kings games could also go to other local attractions, Schutte said. For many of the fans, it could be their first time coming to Springfield.

“Any time we can get them here for the first time, we have a good track record of bringing them back again,” he said.

The Kings are the Prospect League’s 11th franchise, which includes teams in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois and West Virginia. It will be the third team in Ohio, including the Chillicothe Paints and the Lorain County Ironmen. Champion City’s closest rival will be the Richmond, Ind., RiverRats.

The Kings will play 60 games this season, including 30 home dates at the National Trail Parks and Recreation District’s Carleton Davidson Stadium between late May and early August.

The team will pay the regular stadium rental fee of $350 per game this season, but expect to reach a multi-year contract in the future. National Trail will receive about $10,500 from the 30 rental dates this summer.

The stadium is booked solid this summer, with the Kings and youth schedules, National Trail Director Leann Castillo said.

“It’s a popular place anyway, but adding the Kings games makes it even more so,” she said.

White, a former Major League Baseball pitcher and Kenton Ridge graduate, estimated about $300,000 in improvements have been made to the stadium recently, including a new $200,000 scoreboard, which was paid for by advertising dollars.

The scoreboard was expected to be installed before the season opener, White said, but weather issues delayed the project until at least the second homestand on June 4.

“The main thing is that the city will have it forever,” White said.

The $2.9 million stadium opened in 2004 as part of the $17 million National Trail capital campaign, which also led to the construction of the Splash Zone Family Aquatic Center and the NTPRD Chiller Ice Arena.

At the time, the district had a couple of opportunities to bring Frontier League teams to the stadium, but the National Trail board decided it was built for the community, said Mark Miller, former district marketing manager.

The Kings will be the first collegiate league team to play at the stadium since the Springfield Electros, a Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League team, played at the old Municipal Stadium in 1994 and 1995, Miller said.

“Any time you can add a little baseball, it’s a good thing,” he said.

The Prospect League spent two years trying to get a team in Springfield, Commissioner Dave Chase said. The ball park was ready to host these types of games, he said, and the geography was perfect for the league.

The deal was finalized last August.

“We had created a perimeter and we needed to figure out how to fill out Ohio,” Chase said. “The Ohio team was very important to us.”

The team will also put Springfield on the baseball map with coverage from professional baseball scouts and publications like Baseball America.

“It’s an opportunity to boost the profile of Springfield in a big way,” Chase said.

Typically three to 10 scouts attend per night, depending on the players involved, Chase said. The scouts tend to come to games later in the season after the 2014 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on June 5.

In Chillicothe, the Paints franchise generates a lot of overnight stays in the summer, said Sue Kitchen of the Ross-Chillicothe Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“It’s one of our biggest draws, as far as overnight stays,” Kitchen said.

This winter, the chamber’s Champion City Guide and Supply store served as the Champion City Kings team shop. The store also fills the orders of the team’s online store, which Schutte said has increased significantly with the season opener just a few days away.

“It sold really, really well in the first few weeks,” Schutte said. “Naturally, during the winter it tapered and it’s starting to pick back up.”

The improvements at the stadium could attract other tournaments, Schutte said. The visitors bureau has also bid to host the 2016 Prospect League All-Star game. The Terra Haute, Ind., Rex will host the 2014 All-Star game this summer.

“Having that stadium makes it much more likely that we can get that,” Schutte said.

The Kings will likely also bring more people to the Springfield-Clark County Baseball Hall of Fame, located at the stadium. It will be open for self-guided tours on game days, Miller said.

“When the smaller crowds are there, it doesn’t get a lot of traffic,” he said.

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