Kings to return to Springfield in 2015

First-year franchise drew 16,000 this summer.

By the numbers

16,105: Attendance for the Champion City Kings at 27 home games this summer.

596: Average attendance for the Kings this summer.

959: Average attendance for the Prospect League's 11 teams this summer.

The Champion City Kings will return to Carleton Davidson Stadium next season after drawing approximately 16,000 in attendance this summer, according to team management.

The first-year Prospect League collegiate baseball franchise drew 16,105 fans for 27 home dates at the stadium owned by the city, an average of 596 per game.

Owner Ron Heineman said he was happy with the team’s first season, even though he had hoped to average approximately 700 fans per game.

“We were ecstatic with our inaugural season,” Heineman said. “We’re going to tweak the fan experience to improve upon it next year. … It’s all about the fan. You could tell people were having a good time (this season).”

Kings management will meet with city and National Trail Parks and Recreation District this week about possibly increasing seating at the stadium, Heineman said. They’re also looking for sponsorships for party decks, which will provide a place for businesses to host events.

“It’s critical,” Heineman said. “We could have sold another 700 to 800 tickets on the Fourth of July.”

The team and NTPRD are also expected to iron out a long-term deal on stadium rentals for future seasons, said NTPRD Director Leann Castillo.

“With it being a new team, it was great what we averaged (on attendance),” said Castillo. “I really think the community enjoyed it. I saw the same people at a lot of the games.”

The Kings’ attendance figure ranked 10th in the 11-team Prospect League, ahead of the Lorain County (Ohio) Ironmen, which drew approximately 144 fans per game. The Kings were right behind the Hannibal (Mo.) Cavemen (666 per game) and Butler (Pa.) Blue Sox (649 per game).

The Chillicothe (Ohio) Paints led the league in attendance with 52,677 for 30 home games — an average of 1,756 per game. The league drew a total attendance of 300,612 this season over 313 games for an average of 959 per game.

The team believes it can increase attendance next season and will market its brand more in surrounding counties, Heineman said.

The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, NTPRD and the City of Springfield did a great job of collaborating with the new franchise, Heineman said. He was also pleased with the way the community supported the Kings through sponsorships.

During the off-season, the team will likely sponsor events in the community.

“We want to be part of the fabric, not just baseball,” Heineman said.

Next summer, the team will also have the benefit of having its new scoreboard in place for the entire season. The $200,000 scoreboard wasn’t completed until late July this year due to construction delays.

The Kings are also planning to use host families for players next summer.

The team is also hoping to improve on the field, where the Kings finished the season 21-39, 19 games out of first place. Next year.

“Things are going to continue to get better and better each year as we iron out the little kinks,” said Kings General Manager Rick White, a Kenton Ridge graduate and former major league pitcher. “I think it’s going to continue to get better and better.”

White is also hoping to bring more Ohio players into the organization.

The team is a boost for the community and has increased tourism in the city, said Horton Hobbs, vice president of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.

“It created a destination feel for the community that really rivaled a Dayton Dragons game,” Hobbs said. “It provided that kind of atmosphere here locally, and I think that was important.”

Over time, the crowds increased, Hobbs said, and the Kings became the community’s team.

“We’ve got something really big to build from moving forward,” Hobbs said. “It’s a great addition to the community.”