Suns set Futures League attendance record in third season
PITTSFIELD -- Pittsfield Suns co-owner Jeff Goldklang spent Friday night nervously watching his team and his cellphone to see if the Suns would make it to the Futures League playoffs.
One thing Goldklang, co-owner Tyler Tuminia, and the rest of the Goldklang Group didn't have to worry about was turnstile success. The Suns were successful, and then some.
According to the Futures League website, the Suns drew 51,229 fans to Wahconah Park in 26 openings this summer. That included Friday night's 4,316 capacity crowd for the regular-season ending doubleheader. The Suns averaged 1,970 fans per opening.
"This season has played out phenomenally well," Goldklang said before Friday's doubleheader. "I should couch that by waiting to see the results after [the doubleheader] to make sure we're in the playoffs.
"From an attendance standpoint, this is everything we could have hoped for."
In the minutes following the final pitch of the regular-season finale, the Suns found out they had qualified as a wild-card team in the playoffs.
The Suns were also one of three teams to smash the Futures League single-season attendance record.
According to the league site, the first-year Worcester Bravehearts drew 43,716 fans while the Brockton Rox drew 45,028. The Bravehearts averaged 1,749 fans per game while the Rox averaged 1,668.
Brockton set the league record for single-season attendance in 2012, when the Rox drew 41,141 to Campanelli Stadium. That was the same year the Suns joined the Futures League and drew 30,870. That figure, however, was good for No. 2 in the league.
"I want to say at the beginning of the year, when [general manager Kevin McGuire] and I sat down to discuss our goals, this was what we hoped would happen," said Goldklang. "If we got a decent weather season, if we had a decent ball club, this was where we hoped we'd end up.
"When you see the numbers and you're sitting here on Aug. 8, and they are what they are, we couldn't be happier."
In the Suns' last 10 home games, they had more than 2,000 fans six times and had the sellout on Friday.
The co-owner is quick to spread the credit for the team's success.
"I would say the product that we put out there, and the product is a combination of the entertainment factor that our staff does on a night-in, night-out basis. The fact that we've now had three full seasons to prove to the greater Berkshires the type of ball club and the type of entertainment that we're going to provide," he said. "Of course, Mother Nature doesn't hurt. When you have only 28 home dates, I believe we've only had two rainouts out of those 28 dates."
Goldklang said the ownership group had hoped 2013 would have been the kind of season 2014 turned out to be. But the mid-season rains that plagued Pittsfield and the other teams in the league "made it impossible," Goldklang said.
"This year is where we were hoping to be by the end of last year. That doesn't diminish the fact that we are ecstatic as we look back on our first three years in Pittsfield," he said.
The year before the Suns arrived, the Pittsfield Colonials of the independent professional Can-Am League, drew 37,154 fans over 44 home games at Wahconah Park, averaging 844 fans per game. That would have put the pro team sixth in the Futures League.
If you look at the top five teams, based on attendance, in the league, all are recent pro baseball communities. Pittsfield, Worcester and Brockton were in the Can-Am League in 2011, while Nashua and North Shore were also homes to independent baseball teams in the last decade.
"You combine the quality of operators, the markets and what the Futures League is all about -- combining the local nature of the rosters and I think you have, no pun intended, a home run," said Goldklang.
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