While it's far too early the judge if the Mud Hens will be successful on the field this season, it's clear the Hens are expecting a banner year off it.
Whether the measure is sales of season tickets, club seats or individual game tickets, general manager Joe Napoli said the team is poised to hit a home run in 2005.
The Mud Hens already have sold out tomorrow's home opener, and Napoli said the club is on pace to break the single-season attendance record of 547,204 tickets sold, which was set in 2002, Fifth Third Field's inaugural year.
"Going into our fourth season [at Fifth Third Field], we are extremely excited by the fact that we have exceeded 350,000 tickets sold," he said. "We're right on pace where we want to be, which is a season attendance record."
One component of that figure is sales of both season tickets and club seats.
"Our goal was to get to 3,500 season tickets, and we were going to cap season tickets at that number," Napoli said. "We're about 150 short [of the goal], but we're not concerned because we know - based on past seasons - that we'll continue to sell season tickets for the first few months of this season."
This past year was a critical one for the sale of club seats, since the initial three-year contract for those 1,200 seats ended in 2004. But 95 percent of that original group of club-seat ticket holders renewed their seats for three more years.
"By the end of April, those club seats will be completely sold out again," Napoli said.
What especially pleased Napoli about that renewal rate is that it exceeds the national average.
"Typical renewal for season tickets is 80 percent," Napoli said. "We got to 85 percent [renewed] back in September, knowing the last 15 [percent] is the grind. It's a tribute to [assistant general manager for ticket sales] Erik Ibsen and his staff. Their plan is for that hard 15 percent, so hats off to them for doing a good job."
The team also is on pace for a record-setting sales performance in the area of group sales.
Napoli said there are 140 Roost party rentals, which are held on the third and fourth floor of the office building in the park's right-field corner. The Hens also have sold 160 suite rentals and 351 picnics, which are held on the two party decks on the corners of the suite level or in the Home Run Terrace beyond the outfield fences.
Napoli said the sales of sponsorships also are up eight percent from a year ago.
The Mud Hens define a "sponsorship" as the purchase of some combination of radio and television ads, program ads, outfield fence signage and promotional nights.
The 32 suites on the second level of the ballpark were originally sold for lengths of five, seven and 10 years, and Napoli said only a few suites will be up for renewal after next season. He also said he was confident in the team's ability to keep those suites filled.
"We'll meet with those folks [who are up for renewal] this summer," Napoli said. "The only thing I sense is their enthusiasm for renewal."
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