Excitement at Riley Park this year hasn’t come from big home runs or impressive defensive plays that pull thousands of cheering Charleston RiverDogs fans out of their seats.
And after last week’s cancellation of the 2020 Minor League Baseball season, fans will have wait until 2021 to see those types of highlights from the RiverDogs, the Class A affiliate of the New York Yankees.
Instead, ballpark attendees will be making memories through youth camps, lunch and dinner functions, and the occasional wedding, among other events.
“We still have an amazing facility with a lot to offer, so we expect to make the most of it,” said Chris Singleton, the director of community outreach for the RiverDogs. “There’s a lot of opportunity here.”
Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball announced on June 30 that the minor league season was officially canceled, a decision that most felt was inevitable given how long it took for the majors and its players to agree on a 60-game season.
Like every other minor league team that lost its season due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Charleston RiverDogs are now tasked with finding ways to maximize the use of their stadium.
Teams have expected to take some type of financial hit, dating back to March 12 when most major sports decided to postpone their seasons. But last week’s announcement reinforced the fact that minor league clubs will have to generate income in other ways to offset the financial impact of not having a season.
That's why Singleton said the team is reaching out to clients and partners on how best to increase opportunities at Riley Park. RiverDogs president Dave Echols said much of the same in a video clip posted shortly after last week's announcement.
Echols said Riley Park will host more youth camps, building off of those Singleton is already conducting this summer. In addition, the team hosts travel baseball tournaments and other activities on the field.
Aside from baseball, The Joe will also serve as a wedding venue for couples. And the spacious Segra Club, an exclusive room that offers indoor and outdoor seating during baseball games, will be used for corporate events, such as lunches or dinners for businesses and other entities.
All the while, Echols says the staff “is hard at work preparing for the 2021 season, which will be here before you know it.”
Elsewhere in South Carolina, other minor league clubs are doing the same. The Myrtle Beach Pelicans, a Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, are looking at ways to maximize the use of their stadium. So are the Greenville Drive (Boston Red Sox).
The Columbia Fireflies (New York Mets) are hosting baseball games for local leagues. And on weekends, the stadium opens as a restaurant.
“The events will grow when it is safe and appropriate for larger gatherings, and there’s nothing we want more than to see smiling faces at the ballpark once again,” said Fireflies president John Katz.
Singleton echoed those same sentiments for staffers at Riley Park. He said the youth baseball camps have gotten off to a good start, and that the RiverDogs are excited to work with their partners and sponsors on other ways to use the stadium.
“We’ve changed our marketing plan and geared it for the entire city,” he said. “Regardless of the cancellation, we’re still here for the Holy City and we want our fans to know that.”