Five seasons into his ownership of the Quad-Cities River Bandits, Dave Heller still isn’t done dreaming.
Heller made his first visit of the season to Modern Woodmen Park last weekend, accompanied by his young son, Dylan.
Both looked at the Midwest League park through child-like eyes.
Guided only by the outer limits of their imagination, they explored as they walked around the park with the largest crowd of the season in attendance for a game against Cedar Rapids.
“I’m proud and pleased at what we’ve accomplished thus far, but we still have a lot to do here,” Heller said. “I’m as excited about the possibilities for the next five years as I have been about what transpired over the last five.”
Some improvements will happen soon.
Over the next couple of seasons, Heller envisions a corkscrew slide leading off of a balcony on the south end of the suite level into the children’s area at the stadium.
He would like to add a second ribbonboard along the left field fence, mirroring the one that was installed in right field three years ago.
Other ideas remain in the “infancy” stage, but at some point this season expect a misting system to be installed along the outfield concourse, most likely on the right-field side.
Plans also are in the works for the River Bandits to hand out replicas of the Cardinals’ 2011 World Series rings to fans at two games in August.
And that’s just the beginning.
“Just as it was five years ago, we want to continue to create new experiences for fans so that they will want to come back to Modern Woodmen Park to see what is new now,” Heller said. “That’s part of the fun in it for us, giving our fans new and different things to enjoy.’’
One of the largest video boards in baseball, an outfield ribbon board, outfield party decks, a new entry plaza and the suite-level sky deck are among improvements at the facility in recent seasons, many cooperative efforts between the City of Davenport, which owns the stadium, and the River Bandits organization.
Heller and River Bandits co-owner Bob Herrfeldt like to blend in with the crowd when they attend games.
It gives them an idea of what is working and what areas need improvement.
Over the weekend, Heller did spend time walking the stadium with staff members, offering suggestions.
He wants to see color added to several blank walls along the concourses, one made of cement on the backside of the outfield wall and another at the end of the grandstand on the third-base side of the stadium.
“We want this to be a bright, colorful place for fans to visit, and we have a few areas that need some work,” Heller said. “It’s all part of the experience and something we look to continue to add to each year.”
Heller sampled food and souvenirs as he visited and in at least one instance, a price was lowered because he felt what was being charged was not a good value for the product.
“One of the first things we promised fans when we purchased the club was that they would receive good value for their entertainment dollar, and we continue to review and study everything we do on a regular basis,” Heller said.
He said the club compares itself each year with Midwest League teams in similar-sized markets, measuring everything from the cost of a ticket to what is charged for hot dogs and popcorn.
Heller believes the research benefits both River Bandits fans and the club.
“We have learned this is a value-conscious market and we could never charge for concessions what the Cubs are charging at Wrigley Field. It just wouldn’t work here,” Heller said. “That’s why we’re constantly studying ways to create value for our fans and keep the line on prices.”
Heller said River Bandits fans and sponsors have responded.
Attendance, sales and sponsorships are all running ahead of 2011 numbers. Heller is pleased with the work of Stefanie Brown, promoted last fall to general manager, and of members of a staff which underwent significant changes during the offseason.
“I feel like we have the best staff we have had since Bob and I bought the team,” Heller said. “We’ve been fortunate since we have been here to have good staffs. Kirk Goodman did a terrific job and Stefanie is taking us to the next level. We couldn’t be happier.”
Heller remains happy with the success both the River Bandits and their parent club, the Cardinals, have had on the field in recent seasons.
The Player Development Contract between Quad-Cities and St. Louis expires at the conclusion of the 2012 season. He said he has not yet discussed extending the current eight-year relationship between the organizations.