Curve embrace keeping things fresh

Sustaining success year after year is a challenge for just about any company in any industry, and that’s certainly true in an entertainment industry such as minor league baseball.

The constant concern of “been there, done that” is real, so teams have to continuously give fans fresh, new things to be excited about.

As the Curve enter their 21st season, the franchise is long removed from the initial burst of fan excitement that lasted a handful of years, and also long removed from the end of the original honeymoon period, which occurred more than a decade ago.

The club was able to tout its 20th anniversary season last year, and it all paid off in a big way with a sizable attendance increase. The Curve averaged 4,571 fans per game in 2018, the largest figure since before the Great Recession in 2008 (5,179) and a healthy 4 percent jump from the 2017 mark of 4,395.

It’s worth noting that the Curve averaged almost as many fans in year 20 as they did in year one — the 1999 figure was 4,695 per game — which is a clear sign of stability from the franchise.

“It’s no lie, we talk about it every day, especially within the salespeople,” Curve general manager Derek Martin said of the attendance growth the past two seasons. “That’s something that we all take pride in, that you haven’t had that dropoff and you’ve actually had a slight uptick. And we’re going to continue to have a slight uptick.

“Our goal as a staff is attendance back to 350,000, to average 5,000 a game.”

The only way to reach those goals is to continue doing something the Curve have always done well as a franchise.

“Twenty years into things, you’re always look for new ways to have fun, keep it fresh,” Martin said.

To that end, the Curve unveiled their season promotional schedule Tuesday, running through a gamut of intriguing ideas and giveaways that will be on display this season at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

The “crown jewel,” as marketing director Mike Kessling called it, is the promotion that has the Curve changing their name to the Allegheny Yinzers for seven games.

“We are very excited about the Yinzers,” Kessling said, while a front office staffer showed off the unique jersey.

Another cool alternate jersey promotion will be tops celebrating the 75th anniversary of D-Day, to be worn June 7. The Curve also will wear 1979 Pirates replica jerseys on Aug. 18, with an appearance by Kent Tekulve, who helped the Bucs win the World Series that year.

The most noteworthy bobblehead giveaway is one featuring former Curve players Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer in a Seinfeld theme. Another bobblehead will have last year’s third baseman, Ke’Bryan Hayes, wearing two Gold Gloves, as he’s been the top defensive third baseman in the minor leagues the past two years.

The Curve’s entire promotional schedule can be found on their website.

Gone are the days when the team brought in traveling staples such as the Zooperstars or Birdzerk every year, in large part because after fans have seen those acts so many times, it’s not overly cost effective to keep bringing them back so often.

“It’s getting harder and harder trying to figure out new things,” Martin said. “You’re throwing so much stuff against the wall, and you’re seeing what sticks. A lot of times you look at some teams are doing some things, and we’re like, that would never fly in Altoona. But then other teams, if we put our little spin on it ?

“There’s also things we’ve done in the past — let’s not rebuild the bridge, let’s paint it a different color and change it around a little bit.”

Trying to meet that challenge year after year is something the Curve staff embraces.

“We like to accept the challenge of not doing the same thing,” assistant GM Nate Bowen said. “So we have a lot of meetings, really starting during the current season ? and figure out what we can do that really benefits us.

“I feel like we’re really lucky to have, not only the people that can come up with the ideas, but people that can put them together internally.”­