Boulders hit home run with season's attendance
The Rockland Boulders tallied a league-best attendance of 161,375 this season, a 30 percent jump from the independent league team's inaugural campaign.
With marketing gimmicks like a one-day name change and 20-ounce draft beers for $5, the Boulders had the highest attendance in the Can-Am League since 2009 and the fifth-best of all time, team officials say.
"We knew this was a baseball market and this year the fans proved us right," said team president Ken Lehner, who praised the work of his staff during a season-ending meeting Tuesday, after the Boulders closed out the season Monday with a 5-4 win over the Lincoln (Neb.) Saltdogs. "We saw the potential was there and we went for it. It was really exciting."
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Average game attendance was 3,293, up from 2,811 per game last year. Lehner says 97 percent of fans surveyed said they would come back to see another game.
He credits an off-season that was spent marketing the team, and fewer distractions than in 2011, when the front office focus was on getting Provident Bank Park in Pomona ready for opening day. Last year's attendance was 123,708.
"We had the runway that we didn't have last year," Lehner said.
Early on, Lehner said, the team focused on drawing fans from across the border in nearby Bergen County, N.J. For one day in July, the team changed its name to the Bergen Boulders.
A team survey showed that the number of fans from Bergen County jumped from nine percent to 15 percent of this year's total, Lehner said.
On the field, the news wasn't quite as good. The team suffered through a nine-game losing streak in August and that killed their playoff chances.
"We limped to the finish line," Lehner said.
Injuries to key players like third baseman Phil Cuadrado didn't help, as the Boulders were forced to play several players out of position down the stretch.
But there were bright spots. Outfielder Keith Brachold, a Marist College grad, led the league in home runs (29) and runs batted in (84).
This year was considered a pivotal one for the Boulders and the Town of Ramapo, as it tries to pay off debt on the $39 million price tag for the state-of-the-art facility.
A steady lineup of music concerts kept the stadium busy throughout the summer, but also angered nearby residents, upset at the noise that drifted through their windows at night.
Ramapo's economic development agency financed the stadium and has a bond payment of nearly half a million dollars due in the coming weeks. More concerts are planned this fall as well as a car show.
"We're doing our part," Lehner said. "The better we do, the better they (Ramapo) do."