Meet the MacPhail nominees: Fort Myers Miracle
Throughout the week, this fine blog will run interviews with
representatives from the nominated teams, in an effort to shine some
light on their promotional strategies and philosophies.
Today’s featured team is the Fort Myers Miracle of the Florida State League. All answers are courtesy of Miracle promotions director Gary Sharp.
The Miracle were also nominated for the MacPhail trophy last season, and an interview with former GM Andrew Seymour regarding that honor can be found here.
Prior to the season, had your team ever been nominated for a
MacPhail Award? If so, ever won it?
GS: We were honored to be nominated the last
two years and prior to that, 1998-2000. The club won the award in 1992.
How would you define your team’s promotional philosophy?
try and create promotions that not only are creative, but promotions that take
into account how they can also impact ticket sales, food and beverage and
merchandise. The crazier the better!!
What were some of your biggest promotional successes from
GS: We had few that stood out because they were topical that brought
our whole operation in on these promotions.
“Cheaper By The Gallon Days” — This promotion was created
to respond to the escalating price of gas this summer. Our hope was to take
something that was perceived as being one of the most negative stories of the
summer of 2008, and putting a positive spin on it. We decided to set our prices for box seat
tickets and grill items offered at Hammond Stadium, based on the lowest price
for a gallon of unleaded gasoline found in South Fort
Myers, the area surrounding the ballpark. The
Miracle’s goal to “fuel up” the local economy also included “Gallon Giveaways”,
like a gallon of water or a gallon of sour cream. Anything that comes in a
gallon was fair game for a “Cheaper by the Gallon” giveaway. Since there are
four quarts in a gallon, if there were four people in your vehicle when you
arrived at Hammond Stadium, your parking was free on these nights. Every fan
that attended a “Cheaper By The Gallon” Night was also eligible to enter into a
drawing to receive a free tank of gas. As a result of the huge popularity of the promotion, four local
“RaceTrac” gas stations teamed up with the Miracle for the
final month of the season, as well as for the Miracle postseason home games in
FLIGHT TO NOWHERE NIGHT — We poked fun at the airline industry to shed light on the rise of
passengers’ airport hassles and increasing airline ticket prices. Complaints
are up at the ticket counter, but with this promotion, accolades flew in from
our fans. The game was to begin at 7:05 pm, but due to some “unforeseen
circumstance”, the game was delayed a few minutes as long lines at the gates
delayed fans from getting in to the ballpark on time. Passengers were charged
for baggage brought into the ballpark and the ability to check your bag was
available for a nominal fee. We couldn’t guarantee that their possessions
weren’t mishandled, lost, mangled or rummaged through, however. Also, everyone was screened by
our resident FIG (Fun Is Good) agents. We took the opportunity in the midst of a fiscal crisis caused by increasingly
high fuel costs and bad economy to add additional “fees” to generate new
revenue. Pockets schedules, normally free, cost $1 and aisle seats cost an
extra $2. Birthday announcements, participation in on-field games and singing
of the 7th inning stretch all came with a fee. Some seats were
oversold and people were accommodated if they were bumped from their seat. Cart
service, provided from our lovely Miracle in-stadium attendants, was only
available in the box seats. Upgrades were available for an additional fee.
Any misfires, mishaps, or ideas that just didn’t work?
GS: The idea that I thought would be huge, but completely
bombed was “Miracle
Mystery Night”. There were clues set up all over the
ballpark for fans to collect and try and solve the mystery. I was expecting
this to last all game and fans had to visit all the different parts of the
ballpark where the clues were located. But, the mystery was solved by the first
pitch!! Our winner was the first into the ballpark, got the instructions and
basically sprinted all over the stadium picking up clues and then after 20
minutes he finally figured it out. Well, so much for planning.
What are your favorite sports promotions of all time?
Demolition Night in 1979 at Comiskey
I was way too young to remember the night, but through stories from our owner
Mike Veeck (who was involved in the craziest night ever on the South Side of Chicago)
it might have been the wildest idea with the worst result.
In a perfect world, what sort of promotions would you like
to stage in 2009 and beyond?
GS: I would like to have the
first ever snow delay in Florida State
League history. We are working on a Winter at the Park promotion that could
include downhill skiing on our berm, ski package giveaways and who else knows
what are staff will come up with.