Nashua Silver Knights set for Holman Stadium opener

NASHUA – Nashua Silver Knights president Tim Bawmann was talking to a client of the Knights’ sister team he also runs, the Single A Lowell Spinners.

Besides what he was doing with the Spinners, the client also wanted to purchase an outfield billboard at Holman Stadium.

“I told him he couldn’t, we were all sold out,” Bawmann said. “It was nice to be able to say that, that’s never been the case before.”

Bawmann loves to tell stories of how local businesses doubted the franchise’s prospects for longevity, but here they are beginning their fifth summer at Holman Stadium on Friday night at 6:45 p.m. against the Seacoast Mavericks.

A crowd of more than 2,000 is expected, as Bawmann said half of that is already pre-sold and with good weather he’s hoping for a walk up that matched last year’s opening night throng. Mayor Donnalee Lozeau, with a couple of other local dignitaries, will throw out the first pitch before the University of Massachusetts-Amherst’s Ryan Moloney, from Londonderry, takes the mound. After the game, there will be the usual Friday fireworks display.

“I think we’re in a lot better place certainly than we have been,” Bawmann said, adding that general manager Ronnie Wallace and his staff have provided a lot of off-season stability. “I think we’re still on the way up. Our corporate sales are up, our front office has stability, and our pre-sale for opening night is as high as we remember. Everything continues to trend up.”

Group sales, Bawmann, are also up. Season tickets are close to 200, “pretty much where we were last year.” The team introduced players to season ticket holders on Wednesday evening.

Bawmann says despite room for further improvement on the corporate front, the franchise is on such an upsurge that it could possibly make a six figure profit down the road.

“My ultimate goal is that it could be a six-figure profit, that it might be easily attainable,” he said. “Mother Nature providing, if we get good weather, we are going to make some money this year. This is a walk-up community. If you get four or five days of rain, then you’re in trouble. That’s why we need to increase the corporate sales, because you can make that up there. You get good corporate sales, you can sustain a couple of bad rain days.”

Bawmann is a big “butts in the seats” guy vs. paid attendance that includes unused tickets. In 2014, the team averaged slightly less than 1,000 people actually in the park for games, and he’d like to get that figure to 1,200, the season’s actual paid attendance average.

“That’s 200 a night times, 28 dates, so I think we can get there,” he said.

Bawmann sees a strong start with the first three home dates – Friday (which included post game fireworks), then the 11 a.m. Education Day on Tuesday that caters to schools with a crowd of 3,000 expected. And New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkwowski should be a huge draw on Saturday night, June 13.

That will help offset some of the lower crowds for weeknight dates later this month.

The negatives? They mainly have to do with the facility. The team, Bawmann says, still struggles in servicing the fans on big crowd nights with concessions. In an effort to alleviate long lines at the right field stand, this year it will have a grill down the left field line in front of the old football press box.

Also, they will try to make use of the left field picnic area, which now has a sponsor. It’s called the “Bellavance Beverage Pavillion.” On Friday, fans can gather there beginning at 5 p.m. with a chance at catching batting practice. The gates, however, won’t officially open for the seating bowl until 6 p.m., Wallace said.

“The concession operations continue to be a challenge,” Bawmann said. “I’d like to get the flow of fans over to that area in the ballpark.”

Other things Bawmann said he needs to discuss further with the city are an upgrade to the rest rooms, and there are ongoing discussions about purchasing a new scoreboard for next season. That may include the team possibly paying an advance on its lease, that has three more one-year options remaining.

“There is movement,” Bawmann said. “The scoreboard isn’t just for the Nashua Silver Knights. It’s embarrassing to look at our scoreboard that goes on and off on a nightly basis. … We’re not asking for a half a million dollar board like we have in Lowell. Just maybe a $150,000 board. I think there’s a better than 50 percent chance (it will happen).”

Luxury suite rentals continue to be strong, Bawmann said, already sold out for several big nights this year. But he added he wished he had been here when Holman was renovated 13 years ago.

“As nice as they are, we don’t need seven suites in Nashua,” he said. “We need better bathrooms and a better way to service the fans.”

But that certainly doesn’t mean the team isn’t happy at Holman.

“We have no intentions of going anywhere,” Bawmann said. “We’d sign a long-term lease tomorrow if (the city) wanted us to.”

The team naysayers once referred to as the “short timers” are now the sure timers.

Mavericks win opener

The Silver Knights fell to the Seacoast Mavericks 4-3 in their season opener Thursday in Portsmouth. Nashua took a 3-2 lead in the top of the seventh when Manny Cruz scored from third on a fielder’s choice.

But former Silver Knight Ryan Gendron hit a 2-run home run in the bottom of the eight to decide the game.

Kevin Magee got the start for Nashua, going five innings and allowing two earned runs on six hits. He walked none and struck out six. Lucas Olen took the loss.

Evan Flanagan earned the win with three innings of relief work.

The Silver Knights return to action tonight against the Seacoast Mavericks at historic Holman Stadium at 6:45 p.m.