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Monday, June 23, 2014

Holman upgrades should be coming

Tom King

There’s really not a better place to be on a nice summer night than Holman Stadium.

OK, we have made that clear. Now, let’s delve into it further. Holman can be an even better place to be than it is now. ...

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There’s really not a better place to be on a nice summer night than Holman Stadium.

OK, we have made that clear. Now, let’s delve into it further. Holman can be an even better place to be than it is now.

It’s going to take some doing, it’s going to take some meeting of the minds, which is never easy. The place right now looks great, but it’s space can be maximized and the fan experience for Nashua Silver Knights games, in particular, can improve.

How? Let’s start with the scoreboard. Memo to the city: It’s time to get a new one. Time to join the 21st century, get a scoreboard with a video board, one that can be entertaining as well as informative.

And one that works.

Every season there’s a problem, usually computer, electrical, or otherwise. Time to sit down with the Silver Knights, and any other tenants (Rivier University?) and work out a way to get a new one for next season and beyond.

“We’ve done a nice job here to create a nice atmosphere, and it’s a disservice to the fans that the scoreboard doesn’t operate functionally,” Silver Knights president Tim Bawmann said.

What type of board? Check out some of the minor league-type parks in the FCBL such as Lynn’s Fraser Field, or Brockton’s Campanelli Stadium. They have the modern-type board.

“This ballpark needs that,” Bawmann said. “The park has come a long way. The field looks fantastic. Scott (Painter, Park-Rec official) and his crew have done a great job. It gets a lot of use. But it needs a scoreboard, it needs it for the fans.”

Bawmann is trying to figure out ways to go about it. It’s a delicate issue, because its costly, probably worth a year or two of rent ($25,000-$50,000 or a lot more) but he’s right. Holman needs one. Badly.

“I don’t know if that’s a combination of the Silver Knights, the city of Nashua, the high schools that utilize this to kind of come together and figure out a way to do some fundraising to make it work,” Bawmann said, “but it needs a scoreboard. It’s another amenity.”

Bawmann also runs the minor league Lowell Spinners, who just put a new $500,000 scoreboard in at LeLacheur Park that is 75 percent publicly funded.

Now don’t gulp, he’s not looking for that, or thinks Holman needs it. Yours truly either, but get something better than is in place now.

“Something on a smaller scale,” Bawmann said, “because of the way technology is today. And it can happen, probably a collaboration of a bunch of us parties coming together and figuring out a way to make it work.”

Makes sense, right? Think of it next time you see all sorts of weird letters and numbers on that board that take an inning or two to clear.

Next up: the picnic area, left field line and left field. It needs to be used. That’s mainly on the Knights.

“There’s a lot of potential,” Bawmann said. “The plan down the left field line is to make that a pre-game barbecue area, like we have in Lowell, which we call the Gator Pit.

“It’s about getting the groups out here. The goal would be to have steak tips and ribs, sausages, hot dogs and hamburgers like we do in Lowell. It’s still our job to get out and sell that to the BAE (Systems), the Raytheons. Once we can get a couple of companies to believe in us, and do that, and the heavy hitters see that, and I think it grows from there.”

Bawmann has the vision of using the left field line, filled now with picnic tables, as well as the pavillion out in left field.

“This thing could wrap all the way around,” he said. “Get 200-300 people in here for a private picnic area. It’s up to us to sell it. But it still takes that first fish to buy it and people to see it and say ‘Oh, that looks like a fun thing for us to do.’”

Third, Holman needs a third concession area (besides home plate and right field) to handle large crowds. When there’s 2,700 in the ballpark, like there were for the Silver Knights home opener earlier this month, getting food had to be a three-inning chore. A concession stand down the left field line, similar to the one in right field that can produce fried foods, works.

“Our crowd on Opening Night, we almost got to the point where we couldn’t service the fan,” Bawmann said. “We need a concession stand somewhere over on this side of the ballpark to be able to service everybody. That will probably be the next step as we continue to grow.”

Fourth, something needs to be done with the old football press box.

Inside it’s become unsafe to use, with rickety stairs, etc. Bawmann has been told it’s a historic building, but it’s ancient history now, folks. Renovate it, do something with it – perhaps even turn that into a concession stand.

“It would be neat to make that a castle,” Bawmann said. “We use it for storage, but you can’t really go up any levels. It’s not safe.”

Let the record show Bawmann didn’t come to yours truly. I went to him to ask about how to max the park space, and brought up each subject. Turns out his wheels have already been turning on each idea.

So should the city’s. Cost money? Sure. But it can be another split bill.

“I don’t want this to sound like I’m picking on the city because they’ve been fabulous to work with,” Bawmann said. “It just needs some upgrades. The renovations they did here (a decade ago) are great, it’s beautiful. Now you need to take it to the next level.”

Bawmann admits the team can survive as is, the business model certainly works. But why stop at just survival?

“The problem is our growth wouldn’t be what you’d like it to be,” he said, adding that new franchises such as Brockton and Worcester have better facilities.

But that’s OK, the Silver Knights don’t have to be in a palace, although they’d love to be.

“It’s a pride thing,” he said. “Do you want to be the best facility in the league? We do.”

Lots of food for thought as you munch on that hot dog in your seat behind home plate.

Tom King can be reached at 594-6468 or tking@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow King on Twitter (@Telegraph_TomK).