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Birmingham Barons keep breaking attendance records

The Birmingham Barons keep drawing more and more fans in their fourth season at Regions Field. (File)
The Birmingham Barons keep drawing more and more fans in their fourth season at Regions Field. (File)

The Birmingham Barons keep writing new entries in their record book when it comes to people passing through the turnstiles.

The team has led the Southern League in attendance since moving to 8,500-seat Regions Field. Three times this season, the Barons have eclipsed their single-game attendance mark.

The Barons set that mark at 8,577 on Aug. 15, 2015, a Saturday night that featured a Pyro Palooza fireworks display and Star Wars Night. Coincidentally, Star Wars Night on May 13, 2016, raised the bar with 8,587 people.

But the ball club on Birmingham’s Southside wasn’t done.

Star Wars Night was the final game of a series hosting the Jacksonville Suns. The Barons opened their next home stand on Thirsty Thursday, May 19, against the Montgomery Biscuits and reset the record at 8,595.

Two days later, the Barons did it again. Spurred by an appearance by the Zooperstars costumed entertainers, a pregame kids’ T-shirt giveaway, church night – which included the Jewish Motorcyclists Alliance – and a postgame Girl Scouts campout, the game drew an announced crowd of 8,607.

The Barons have hosted seven sellouts in the first half of the 2016 season. They sold out six times in the first half of 2015 and 13 overall.

Weather, seating factors

General manager Jonathan Nelson said the club benefited from a good window of weather.

Jonathan Nelson, Birmingham Barons general manager (Karim Shamsi-Basha/Alabama NewsCenter)
Jonathan Nelson, Birmingham Barons general manager (Karim Shamsi-Basha/Alabama NewsCenter)

“People were really caught up in spring fever and wanted to come out to enjoy a Barons baseball game downtown at Regions Field,” he said.

Nelson explained that the varied seating options at Regions Field have allowed the Barons to exceed the 4-year-old stadium’s capacity. Those options include a banquet hall, party suites, the party deck, the parkside picnic area, the home run porch and the picnic area in left centerfield.

“Maybe certain nights we only have 150 in the parkside picnic area,” he said of the 300-capacity space. “That allows us to resell standing-room-only tickets as part of general admission. That’s how we’ve climbed the ladder and eclipsed that.”

Capacity of the banquet hall is 800, but “sometimes we get a little more in there,” Nelson said.

Fans pack Regions Field to watch a Birmingham Barons game. The team keeps breaking its attendance record. (File)
Fans pack Regions Field to watch a Birmingham Barons game. The team keeps breaking its attendance record. (File)
Fans take in a Barons game at Regions Field. (File)
Fans take in a Barons game at Regions Field. (File)
The Birmingham Barons are accustomed to drawing good crowds at Regions Field, which has the Southern League’s best attendance figures. (File)
The Birmingham Barons are accustomed to drawing good crowds at Regions Field, which has the Southern League’s best attendance figures. (File)

Raising the bar

A Regions Field record 444,639 fans passed through the gates in 2015, making it the second straight year the organization drew in excess of 400,000 fans over its 70 home games.

It was the third year in a row Regions Field saw an increase in fan support, drawing more than its inaugural, Southern League-winning 2013 campaign (396,820) and 2014’s 437,612.

The 2015 season’s turnout is second in team history only to 1994’s “Jordan Year” record of 467,867. That season was bolstered by a Major League Baseball strike and the presence of NBA great Michael Jordan as a member of the team.

“Even though this is the fourth season at Regions Field, from a shine standpoint it’s not getting any duller. It’s actually getting brighter,” Nelson said. “People are so excited to see what is new when they come back downtown.”

The general manager said the challenge for him and his staff is to continue to raise the bar and make the fan experience new for every visit.

“Whether it’s their first or 35th or more, we want it to be something fresh,” Nelson said. “Our goal each year is to add new things to the ballpark experience.”

This season’s additions are nachos served in a Barons batting helmet and the beer garden, which sells all the craft beers brewed in the city.

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