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Springfield, MO

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A Conversation With ... Dan Reiter

Vice President and General Manager, Springfield Cardinals

Posted online

What changes have you seen in the past year since the Springfield Cardinals team was sold to Diamond Baseball Holdings and the city of Springfield purchased Hammons Field?
The biggest change is the excitement level. We kind of had a dark cloud of mystery in front of us and a dark cloud of expensive parking. What’s happened instead is an excitement of what the stadium can become – for baseball but also how to transform it into a year-round entertainment venue in downtown Springfield.

As part of the city’s $16 million purchase of the ballpark, they agreed to $4 million in renovations required by the league, which was later recouped through an allocation in the state budget. Give us an update on that progress.
Last year, we kind of broke the mold on lighting by getting it installed midseason. But this offseason, a lot of it’s been in the player areas, which is what the (Professional Development League) wants. So, that’s where we’re working on the visiting clubhouse, the indoor training facility, netting inside of the dugouts, inside of the bullpens, and then some slight changes to the field. These are all required. They’re critical in order for us to maintain our PDL license. We will still have a few more improvements that we’ll have to work on so that we can be ready by 2025. I would describe that as the hard line.

What about the fan-facing upgrades?
Fan facing is really what we’re starting to work on next. We are starting the process on engaging an architect on trying to add bathrooms for the indoor facility and how to renovate our press level. Short term, we are window tinting the suite level to try to further the life of some of the HVAC equipment. We’re also really excited to be able to really go more into local and craft beer. We have an entire stand that we’re wanting to dedicate to help the experience of fans. But all of these things are very tip of the iceberg.

Will funding for the wanted but not required changes come from the city?
No. That initial nest egg definitely will not cover it. The lease agreement that we have with the city of Springfield is really great – both of us want to make sure that there’s a continual plan for improvement. So, every year as the Cardinals’ rent goes up, those increases in rent go to those future capital projects. As a team, we’re invested. We’re taking our money and putting it into it.

What’s your vision for this organization?
If you gave me the dream scenario, you start having an additional level on top of our offices, which can actually turn into convention space. [Also, the] entire stadium becomes 360 degrees; left field and right field are connected. We’ll have bathrooms in our indoor facility so it can become a year-round rental for both youth teams and other private events. I’d love to build a new version of a hydro-slide on our back hill, a kid’s splash pad, kids’ playground area, a better picnic area, adding suites because suites have become extremely high capacity for us. If you gave me five new suites right now, I think we could have them sold by opening day. A bigger key is that our stadium should be more than baseball. I’m very hopeful that we’re going to have our first concert announcement pretty soon. As we can turn ourselves into an outdoor amphitheater, I really feel that for us that’ll be one of those significant changes is that we’re not just baseball, we’re an entire entertainment complex. One of our biggest growth opportunities is in our special events, not just concerts but private events and companies renting out the stadium for a huge picnic.

Will these efforts drive attendance to games, which I presume is still your focus?
At the core of everything we do is we’re a baseball team. We exist to help the St. Louis Cardinals win their world championship and we exist to make our community better. The two are intertwined. The higher the attendance goes, that means there’s more people coming to downtown Springfield; there’s more people more likely to stay for overnights for weekends. I think the bars and restaurants around this area would attest that when there’s the vibrancy of a Cardinals home stand, it helps their businesses.

April marks the start of the 20th season of the Springfield Cardinals. Do you have any attendance goals?
Every year we want attendance to go up. We have been going up since COVID, but even more importantly what we’re seeing is that spending inside the ballpark has gone up. Last year, our merchandising went up 58%. We took a customer-centric approach and we tried to create the right price points and the right simple way of ordering, and we saw amazing results in our hospitality last year. I think the pitch clock that Major League Baseball implemented, we were kind of a trial area in Minor League Baseball, but I think it’s been really good for fans. The average game time (came) down to about two hours and 37 minutes. When we launched our membership program a few years ago, it was one of if not the most innovative membership programs in Minor League Baseball. People are seeing the benefits to that. As far as actual members, I would estimate 2,300 to 2,500. We’re very bullish on the number of people that are going to come to Hammons Field this year.

What’s the latest on the idea of selling the naming rights to the ballpark?
We will have a new stadium naming rights sponsor. We’ve had some interest and the dialogue keeps going, but we’re definitely taking a very methodical approach to make sure that we get the right partner.

That might be a tough process.
It will. I’ve worked here from day one and I can remember handing Mr. [John Q] Hammons a certificate for our first-ever game and kind of laughing because I remember saying to him, “Welcome to your stadium.” To have it called anything else, it’s going to be tough, but I also know that it’s going to be right. Ultimately, a part of that naming rights is going to go into other capital improvements to keep the stadium going. But then my job is to figure out another way to make sure that Hammons’ legacy stays in this facility.

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