This is a very important month in Curve history, with 19 home dates serving as a significant barometer of the interest fans either still do or do not have in the 11-season-old franchise.
Prior to Saturday's terrific holiday turnout, the largest crowd this season at Blair County Ballpark was 5,321. Just two years ago, the team averaged 5,318 fans for the entire season. The average this season is 3,976, down 17.7 percent from the figure of 4,829 this time a year ago.
We've previously discussed many of the factors behind the dropoff - economy, poor weather, the been-there, done-that feeling for some fans - but one thing that cannot be blamed is a lack of good-faith effort by owner Bob Lozinak and his management team.
The Curve slashed ticket and food prices well before the season started. They also have instituted numerous cost-cutting measures, established special ticket deals and giveaways and recently announced a fundraising campaign that provides local groups an easy way to raise money by selling tickets to games later this month.
Short of devaluing the product by giving away thousands of tickets per night, Lozinak and the Curve have done about everything they can to pack more butts into the seats at Blair County Ballpark.
Former owner Chuck Greenberg was tremendous for the Curve, and the Curve were tremendous for him. He increased the franchise's notoriety, and the franchise returned the favor by giving him a platform to enhance his own reputation.
Greenberg is a shrewd businessman who came along at the right time and made a lot of money by owning the Curve for seven years. He also got out at the perfect time as he could see the writing on the wall through the steadily decreasing attendance and general declining interest in the franchise.
Lozinak made his millions owning McDonald's franchises and is a low-key person, so he's not in the minor league baseball business to make a lot of money or schmooze with executives. His primary interest is owning a team in his hometown because of the pride and joy he gets out of it, not the perks or the money.
Regardless, Lozinak has every reason to be concerned about the big attendance drop this year. The concern could be seen in his face and heard in his voice on a few occasions this season when he glanced out over particularly small crowds at BCB.
What makes this month so important is that, no matter how much he may want the franchise to remain in his family for decades, Lozinak needs to see that the people of Altoona and the region are not taking the Curve for granted.
He needs to see lots more people in the stands.
Having 19 home games in July is a godsend for the Curve, who used to post numerous 6,000-plus crowds per season and need to pull in that many people several times this month.
Sure, the franchise padded attendance numbers in the past. All minor league teams do. But there also were many legitimate huge crowds of 7,000 or more, as evidenced by the eye test of the packed upper deck, left field bleachers, grassy bank and overflowing concourse.
Those gigantic crowds have been non-existent so far this year, and they are badly needed because that's the only way to boost a sagging attendance average.
This is the month things have to turn around for the Curve. If they don't, it might never happen, and the once-great franchise may be unable to avoid taking a step toward minor league mediocrity.
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and email@example.com.