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Published: 2/14/2006

ProMedica to sponsor all-star game in Toledo

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Boosters promise to turn Toledo into "baseball heaven" in July when the sport's best minor-league professional players arrive for a nationally televised all-star game.

And their odds of achieving that improved greatly with the selection of a sponsor to help foot the expected $1.5 million bill for events related to the Triple-A game that will feature top players from the International and Pacific Coast leagues.

ProMedica Health System, the Toledo-based hospital and health-care-service provider, has stepped to the plate, the event's host, the Toledo Mud Hens, are to announce today.

"This is a good marriage," Joseph Napoli, the team's vice president and general manager, said.

The name of the nonprofit firm will appear on all major events July 10 to 12, including a home-run derby featuring minor-league all-stars, retired major-leaguers, and top local high school sluggers; a fireworks show to be detonated from the Anthony Wayne Bridge; and a three-day Fan Fest at SeaGate Centre that will include pitching stalls and other skill challenges, autograph sessions with baseball legends, and live entertainment.

Neither the Hens' general manager nor a ProMedica spokesman would disclose how much the health-care provider will pay. But Mr. Napoli said such sponsorships typically bring in $250,000 to $750,000, depending on the size of the market.

Using the theme of "Swinging Big For Health," ProMedica will combine the sponsorship with related activities, including promotion of school physical education programs.

This year is the 19th for the all-star game, but the first time Toledo will be host.

More than 100,000 people are expected to come to Fifth Third Field and downtown Toledo for activities related to the July 12 game, which will be shown live on ESPN 2, said Jim Donnelly, president of the Greater Toledo Convention and Visitors' Bureau.

Most will be from the Toledo area, but the event is expected to attract baseball fans from a 500-mile radius, he said.

The Mud Hens have booked 200 downtown rooms for three nights each for players and officials of visiting teams, Mr. Donnelly added.

He expects the event to pump $2.5 million to $3 million into area restaurants, bars, and other businesses.

A sell-out is expected, and Mud Hens officials are considering setting aside 500 tickets that would be distributed through a lottery to people who don't hold season tickets.

Fans with season passes have snapped up 6,000 tickets at $75 each, which includes all activities over the three days. That represents nearly 70 percent of the 8,943 seats available. Including standing room, the stadium will hold 10,300. Still, the team expects no problem filling the space.

Besides the ProMedica sponsorship, revenue will come from the SeaGate Centre event. Admission there will be $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under.

Souvenir sales have begun.

Additionally, the Hens will receive proceeds from a small number of commercial spots during the ESPN telecast.

Besides television coverage, the event will be broadcast on radio in 30 cities with Triple-A teams, Mr. Napoli said.

The Sacramento RiverCats, last year's host, found the game "to be a tremendous experience for us and the entire community," said Gabe Ross, team spokesman.

"You're putting yourself and your club and your capabilities on a big stage in the baseball world."

The game was a sellout, with most spectators coming from the Sacramento area.

Mr. Ross declined to say whether the game generated a profit, but called it a "positive experience on the business side."

Contact Gary Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.



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