NEW BRITAIN - The New Britain Bees are about to open their second season, and management is hoping fans will like the changes planned for 2017.
“We’ve got a lot going on,” said General Manager Gerry Berthiaume. “Fun, family entertainment doesn’t get any better than at New Britain Stadium.”
“The stadium has never looked better,” Berthiaume said of the renovated facility.
Berthiaume said the team is doing many things to attract new fans and increase attendance, including promotions every day.
Fans who go to Monday games can buy $1 hot dogs, ice cream, popcorn and other concession items all night. More savings can be found at Wednesday games, with four-pack deals on tickets and concession items that represent a total savings of $75. As for the weekends, every Saturday game will feature a fireworks display.
The Bees are also hiring in a soon-to-be-named in-game hostess to hype up the crowd before the game and in-between innings.
“We’re going to bring the entertainment value to another level this season,” Berthiaume said.
Berthiaume was named general manager of the Bees in January. He had been executive vice president and GM of the New Britain Red Sox and Rock Cats from 1984 through 1999, and oversaw the opening of New Britain Stadium after the team left Beehive Field, so the new job actually represents a return for Berthiaume.
The Bees organization is already showing growth from its first year, he said, noting that revenue from billboard sales has increased by almost 30 percent.
“These are folks that have really come and stepped up to the plate and said, ‘We believe in this club, and this is how much we believe in this club,’ ” Berthiaume said of the Bees sponsors, which include Stanley Black & Decker, Bristol Hospital, Pepsi and ACES.
Preseason ticket sales are also up, the GM said. The organization has already almost sold the same amount of group package tickets as it did all of last season, he said, and it’s not even opening day.
“That’s a testament to the staff,” Berthiaume said. “The staff is young, energetic, passionate, and they work their tails off day in and day out.”
Individual ticket prices range from $8 for bleacher seats to $13 for field box seats. Group tickets - for groups 25 people or more - start at $5 for bleachers and go up to $10 for field boxes.
The Bees will run concessions in-house this year with the intention of offering better service. Berthiaume said that, for the most part, all concession stands will be open during games this season. This will help keep lines short and fans happy, he said.
“We want to be able to have people go down, get their food in a very short period of time, go back up to watch the game and get the in-game experience,” Berthiaume said.
Soft-serve ice cream will be a new addition to the menu this year, pizza may be added during the season.
“We’re still working on that menu and finalizing it,” Berthiaume said.
On the third base side patio will be a full bar serving liquor, wine and beer.
Brad Smith, vice president of business development for the Bees, said running concessions in-house will help keep prices the same as last season’s.
“That was our goal. We want to keep costs down for fans,” Smith said.
As was the case last year, hot dogs, candy, soft pretzels, peanuts and popcorn will cost $4. A hamburger, cheeseburger or other sandwich served with chips and a pickle will cost $7.50. A 20-ounce domestic draft beer will cost $7, wine $6.
Running the parking lot outside of the stadium is also being done in-house this year. Parking will cost $5, but some ticket packages will include a parking pass.
“From an operations point of view, we run the parking, we run our tickets, we run our concessions operation and we’re in charge of our players,” Berthiaume said. “Everything is under our umbrella.”
While this is only the Bees second season, the day after opening night represents the 35th consecutive year of professional baseball in New Britain. Bees management said the organization recognizes the importance of the sport in the city.
“We’re nothing without that baseball tradition,” said Chris Knoblock, director of media relations and broadcasting for the Bees.
Knoblock said they are trying to contact former mayors who held office during New Britain’s 35-year baseball history. Mayor Erin Stewart is set to throw out the first pitch at the team’s season opener on Friday night, and the team would like to have former mayors present, too.
“We’re going to do some very innovative things this year, which is what this league (the Atlantic League) is all about,” Knoblock said.
The Bees will begin the 2017 season at 6:35 p.m. Friday, April 21, against the York Revolution. The first 1,000 fans through the turnstiles will get a magnet schedule.
The team will celebrate opening day with a fireworks celebration after the game.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.