A happy 20th anniversary

Hyzdu, Van Slyke set to appear for Curve during 2018 season

The Curve’s 20th anniversary season will feature appearances by franchise legend Adam Hyzdu plus Pirates fan favorite Andy Van Slyke, and coming off a league title, it gives the club plenty of timely marketing opportunities.

“You can’t write it any better,” Curve general manager Derek Martin said. “To come off of our second Eastern League championship going into our 20th season, that just sets the bar for us to be able to do a lot of things and have a lot of fun with it. A lot of our promotions are tied into our 20th season and championship-type giveaways.”

One of the biggest changes — literally — this season will be the gigantic new videoboard at Peoples Natural Gas Field. It’s one of the biggest in all of minor league baseball and, with better technology, will allow for greater in-game entertainment options.

There’s also an interesting change fans can take advantage of when it comes to purchasing tickets. It’s called ticket insurance, and it costs $1 per ticket. When fans purchase that option, if they decide to skip the game for any reason, they can trade in their ticket for a voucher to any other game.

“Life happens. Things happen,” Martin said. “We want to help people make it easier … and want to be able to accommodate everyone.”

Also on the ticket front, fans will be able to get free tickets to any Monday home game by visiting Five Star Mitsubishi in Altoona on game day.

“It’s no secret: Mondays are tough,” said Martin, whose staff is focused on creative ways to get people into the ballpark despite obstacles such as the franchise being around for a long time and the colder months at the beginning of the season.

The Curve had a strong season of attendance in 2017, averaging 4,395 fans per game, a 6.4 percent increase over 2016. That was the largest average attendance since 2008. Total attendance also went up substantially, to 294,486 from 272,640 in 2016.

Increasing season-ticket numbers is one of Martin’s main areas of focus.

“People say I had them for seven, eight years, and they weren’t used a lot,” the GM said. “So you’re hoping it’s new employees, new people coming into the area. We’re trying to work really hard to bring in new promotions that they haven’t done before.”

It helped, certainly, that last year’s team was a championship club, and the Curve should be good on the field again this year. The front office has to sell tickets either way, but winning does help.

“When I deal with the players, everyone’s much happier when they’re winning,” Martin said. “We talk a lot about we don’t control the product on the field, and what we can control is the entertainment value when it doesn’t come to baseball. But people want to come out and see winners. The atmosphere when a team is winning, more people are coming out, more people are sitting down paying attention to the game.”

For fans interested in Curve history, there’s an impressive new exhibit featuring team memorabilia on display at Baker Mansion. It will be up all season and includes all sorts of historic elements.

Some promotional highlights:

n There will be 20 fireworks nights at the ballpark.

n There will be individual bobbleheads of the Curve’s all-time team (as voted on by fans), with one to be given away each Saturday home game.

n Van Slyke will be on hand April 10, and Hyzdu will visit June 16, the same night of his bobblehead giveaway.

n The Curve will wear Han Solo jerseys on May 4 to commemorate “Star Wars” night. On medical professionals night May 16, the jerseys will look like doctor scrubs. And a Three Deer Moon jersey will be worn on Pennsylvania Heritage Night on Aug. 3.

n Pro wrestler Diamond Dallas Page will visit Aug. 23.