Let’s hope this milestone doesn’t turn into a season that signals that the honeymoon is over.
Given the overall attendance decline over the past few years, from a high-water mark of a 5,970 per-game average in 2004 to 5,318 last year (a 10.9 percent drop), that case can be made.
Then again, the fact that the Curve have flourished this long in a Double-A market this small is a remarkable tribute to this community and the hard-working, classy manner in which the Curve strive to reflect Altoona, Blair County and central Pennsylvania.
At the same time, Barnum and Bailey — and no question, Parney is one of them — would have trouble averaging 5,000 per night here over 71 home dates for 10 straight years.
A challenged economy, and the addition of the Curve-owned State College Spikes have contributed to the attendance decline. A percentage of minor-league baseball fans aren’t quite committed to April in the Eastern League.
Since the vast majority of minor-league fans are more concerned about what inning they’ll venture out to Uncle Charley’s Grill than they are about whether the Curve are winning or losing, there’s been an inevitable interest dent from when BCB opened on that magical night in 1999.
To their credit, the Curve have attempted to address that more than ever this year.
As fan-friendly as they’ve been — how many owners and general managers, really, are shaking hands and thanking customers at the door? — they’ve become even more so.
For the first time, they’re allowing season-ticket holders to use unused tickets later in the season. You don’t want to come 16 times in April — and who does? — fine. Build your own section for June.
For the first time, there are nights of four tickets and four dogs for one price, something the Curve have not done before probably because they’ve not had to. The reality, though, is such assorted bargains are commonplace in most minor (and major) league towns.
The promotional schedule, starting with Jerome Bettis’ visit tonight, is packed. Opening-night festivities also include, of course, Parney, assuming he’s made weight and won’t wreck the mound, christening year No. 10 by landing from a plane, helicopter or, presumably if need be, a cannon.
That kind of fun approach will generate some buzz and help keep the novelty from wearing off. Or so we hope.
The Curve, through a decade, remain Altoona’s greatest attraction, and Blair County Ballpark is something in which we all enjoy showing off to visiting family and friends.
Let’s never take that for granted.
Happy anniversary, Curve. Here’s to another 10 great years.
Neil Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Curve owner Chuck Greenberg chats with players Luis Cruz (left) and Jonel Pacheco at Media Day.
Fact BoxFirst stop
Tonight: Altoona Curve vs. Reading Phillies at Blair County Ballpark, 6:35 p.m.
Pitchers: Curve LHP Kyle Bloom (9-12, 5.51 at Single-A Lynchburg in 2007) vs. Phillies RHP Andrew Carpenter (17-6, 3.2 at Single-A Clearwater)
Promotions: Jerome Bettis appearance; schedule magnet giveaway
Covering the bases: Page B3