The Champion City Kings, who plan to be in Springfield for the next four seasons, had an economic impact of about $3 million on Clark County last year, which tourism officials expect will increase.
The Kings — members of the summer collegiate baseball Prospect League — are close to signing a four-year extension with the National Trail Parks and Recreation District to stay at city-owned Carleton Davidson Stadium on Mitchell Boulevard through 2018.
The team also recently won its bid for the 2016 Prospect League All-Star Game, which could bring hundreds of people to Springfield at one time.
As the team continues to gain popularity, the economic impact will become even greater, said Chris Schutte, the director of marketing and the Convention and Visitors Bureau for the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.
With the first season under their belts, Schutte believes the Kings can increase the economic impact by 20 to 25 percent this year through increased attendance and more promotional events.
“I don’t even think they’ve scratched the surface of the potential market,” Schutte said. “It’s a very bright future for them.”
It did take a little while for the team’s presence to gain traction in the community. Midway through last season, Schutte said he would talk with people who still hadn’t heard about the team being in town.
The first-year Prospect League collegiate baseball franchise drew 16,105 fans for 27 home dates last summer, an average of 596 per game. During special events last summer, such as Fireworks Night, the team drew well over 1,000 fans.
The team is planning more special events this season, said General Manager Rick White, including three fireworks nights, Sunday Fun Days and family promotional nights. The Kings are also going to have live bands every Friday night.
The team has already sold out of reserved season tickets for the upcoming season, according to White.
“As they continue to learn their way around and learn how to craft more events into the game, it’s going to be another big drawing card,” Schutte said.
This summer, the team will also have the benefit of having its new scoreboard in place for the entire season. The $200,000 scoreboard, which was paid for completely through sponsorships, wasn’t completed until late July last year due to construction delays.
The team is finalizing a four-year deal with NTPRD worth about $29,500 to rent the stadium for approximately 30 home dates per year, said NTPRD Director Leann Castillo. The 30 home dates will still allow for community members to use the stadium while the Kings are on road trips, Castillo said.
“We’ve got a good partnership with them, and it brings something to our community,” Castillo said. “It’s a win-win for the community.”
NTPRD has also worked with the Kings to keep dates open in late May to help bring the Ohio High School Athletic Association regional tournament baseball games back to Carleton Davidson. In the past, local high school teams such as Kenton Ridge and Southeastern have brought big crowds to the stadium for those playoff games.
The 2016 Prospect League All-Star Game will also be huge event for the city, White said. The team and the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce worked together on a bid proposal for the game last year.
The league consists of 12 teams in a seven-state region that includes Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and Missouri. The All-Star Game’s format will be changed from two days to three days for this year’s game in Richmond, Ind., White said, allowing for more festivities in host cities.
“Those three days that everyone is going to be here will be a lot of fun,” said White, a former Major League Baseball relief pitcher for 12 seasons.
The team is also working to add party decks on the first- and third-base lines to add more seating. They could cost between $50,000 and $65,000 each and will be paid for through sponsorships, White said — similar to how the scoreboard was funded. The team is hoping to build the deck along the first-base line before the beginning of the season, White added.
The Kings are also still looking for host families to house their players during the upcoming summer season. For more information on how to host, or on the Kings in general, visit championcitykings.com.
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