Curve eager to host 2014 EL All-Star Game

Curve executives are in New Britain, Conn., tonight for the Eastern League All-Star Game, and one year from now the rest of the league will converge upon Altoona when Peoples Natural Gas Field hosts the circuit’s midsummer showcase.

Altoona has hosted the EL All-Star Game once before – in 2006 – and that event drew 9,308 fans, which stood as the ballpark record until this year’s Pirates exhibition topped 10,000.

The team was owned by Chuck Greenberg at that point, and shortly after Bob Lozinak bought the franchise back following the 2008 season, team officials began discussing when would be a good time to host the All-Star Game again.

“We had talked about it really as far back as 2009,” Curve general manager Rob Egan said. “We talked about when a turn might come up for us to have a chance to do it and what the appropriate spacing of years between times that we had it here because you don’t want to do it too close together.

“We just think it’s a great showcase, not only for the ballclub and the ballpark, but this time around we really want it to be more a showcase about the community.”

The EL All-Star Game will be held July 16, 2014, and there also will be a signature event for fans to attend the night before, although the Curve haven’t decided what it will be yet. In 2006, rocker Eddie Money performed a concert at Blair County Ballpark the night before the All-Star Game.

“We’re actually weighing those options now,” Egan said of the pregame event. “We have a couple of possibilities that we’re looking at, and there are more that we want to explore.”

Hosting an event such as the EL All-Star Game takes an enormous amount of planning. The host team not only has a game and other festivities to plan, but also must coordinate things such as travel for the players and set aside tickets for their families and friends.

Most minor league franchises have a large amount of turnover on their front office staff over time because the job requires them to work many long days throughout the season. Some franchises can’t handle the extra demands of hosting an All-Star Game, but Egan knows the Curve have a large enough and experienced enough staff to pull it off.

Five members of the front office staff were with the team in 2006 – Matt Hoover, Elsie Gibney, Chris Keefer, Corey Homan and Carol Schmittle – so they know the ins and outs of putting on an EL All-Star Game.

Gibney, the team’s longtime director of community relations, said the key is “definitely starting early, because there’s a lot of people coming from a lot of locations and coordinating travel and things like that.”

“Everybody wants to add their mom or aunt at the last minute, so it’s keeping up with so and so from another team,” Gibney said. “It really is an ordeal. I don’t know how they do it for the Olympics, but a little Eastern League All-Star Game is bad enough.”

The front office members haven’t done a lot of pre-planning for next year’s game just yet, but that will change in the coming months. There’s a gradual buildup throughout the offseason, and Egan said one person will be put in charge as the primary coordinator for the event.

“We know the dates, and we’re answering questions from people about when they can buy tickets,” Gibney said.

By the time the game actually rolls around next year, thousands of manpower hours will have been spent on all the preparation and planning.

“You definitely were happy when the day came and you got to see everything that you had planned months and months for,” Gibney said of the 2006 event.