Fireworks at baseball games a great way to attract crowds

Jul 3 2009 - 6:49pm

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There is a growing belief around the Royals that the three surest attendance boosts are, in no particular order: giving away T-shirts before the game, having Zack Greinke pitch during the game or setting off fireworks after the game.

Friday night, the Royals will have two of the three, with Greinke going for his 11th win of the season and a contracted pyrotechnics company setting off the biggest fireworks show of the season to help celebrate Independence Day.

The Royals are hoping that a general decrease in fireworks shows around Kansas City will help drive traffic to Kauffman Stadium on Friday night.

"We can blow it out," said Mark Tilson, Royals marketing director. "This will be people's first chance to see fireworks. There will probably be places around town that won't be doing it, so if we have a big show, it's even more attractive."

The annual show put on by Lenexa, Kan., and Shawnee, Kan., has been canceled because of budgets, and Blue Springs, Mo., is skipping this summer's show because of construction at its usual site.

But the Royals' show will go on Friday night, as it does after every Friday home game, but this one will be about 50 percent longer -- 10 minutes or so -- than typical displays.

Some of the Royals' biggest crowds have been on Friday -- an average of 34,957 for the six Friday home dates so far. That number is inflated because it includes the home opener, two Greinke starts and a Cardinals game. Royals officials do credit fireworks for helping bump ticket sales.

Greinke has even half-joked that the bigger crowds to watch him pitch on Fridays care more about the fireworks than they do watching him.

Kansas City isn't alone in its love of fireworks. A few years ago, the Padres did an exhaustive study that looked at about 50 factors that drive attendance. They looked at weather, day of the week, opponent, opponent's star power, team performance, and more. They found that the biggest factor was fireworks.

The Royals are one of six teams that have hired the California-based Pyro Spectaculars to do regular fireworks shows. The Dodgers began doing Friday fireworks this season.

"Baseball teams have all realized in the last few years, fireworks will keep people in their seats," said Ron Smith, sales and marketing director for Pyro Spectaculars. "You sell out more times on Fridays than other nights."

The benefits for teams go beyond bumping attendance. Because the shows follow games, fans are less likely to leave early. Smith wouldn't say how much it costs to put on the shows, but it's not hard to imagine teams getting their money back through additional ticket and concessions sales.

Tilson said the Royals figured that other fireworks shows around town would be put off for a year, or done with diminished budgets, giving the team more motivation to keep theirs going.

For instance, about 14,000 people watched last year's show at Shawnee Mission Park, Kan., the one put on by the cities of Lenexa and Shawnee that's been canceled. Shawnee's contribution to that show would've been more than $30,000.

The Royals decided to do their blowout Friday night instead of Saturday -- the actual holiday -- because it falls on their regular fireworks schedule, and because crowds for July 3 typically outdraw July 4.

"People get itchy," Tilson said. "On Saturday, the fireworks show would be one of 50, or 70, or whatever. We'll basically be the best and biggest and maybe the only game in town on Friday. It's another way for us to differentiate ourselves from other entertainment options in town."


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