AUBURN — The work started months ago, but now the date has been set.
The Auburn Doubledays released their schedule and more details about the changes coming for the 2018 season on Thursday. Auburn opens the season Friday, June 15 against Batavia.
Doubledays general manager Adam Winslow believes his front office has taken steps to address suggestions from fans as the team prepares for another season.
"We received a lot of feedback from fans about what we could do differently and what do they think could benefit the community — from scheduling to food and beverages and all those types of things that go into a game experience," Winslow said.
Saturday and weekday games, which used to begin at 7 p.m., will begin at 6:30 p.m. Sunday games will remain at 2 p.m.
The Doubledays have also restructured the seating and prices for tickets.
Box seats have gone up $1 to $10 in advance and $11 on game days. The portion of the bleachers under the roof have been designated the Center Reserved section and will cost $8 in advance and $9 on game days, while the rest of park's general admission seating remains $6 in advance and $7 on game days.
The Center Reserved seats will have usher service like box seats.
"Fans wanted to know why they couldn't get in earlier because they always wanted the same seat, and the highest percentage of those people sat behind home plate," Winslow said. "What we wanted to do was figure out how to not only change our mindset, but grow ticket revenue and a fanbase based on general admission. Still offer that as a possibility, but grow our business at the same time and still provide additional benefits to those seating arrangements as well."
The Doubledays also adjusted the season ticket holder benefits, with premium box ticket holders getting more perks — including a higher percentage off at the merchandise booth — than the "Center Reserved" and general admission.
The team has also formed the Wride Club, a nod to New York-Penn League Hall of Famer Charlie Wride, which gives members food discounts, access to the lounge and access to player appearances on game days.
"It gives you the premium parking that everyone wants over by the clubhouse, and it give you a little lounge that we're going to create," Doubledays assistant general manager Shane Truman said. "You also get $1 off your food or drinks or anything you order over there before the game."
With the first full offseason with his two assistant general managers underway, Winslow believes the front office can put their own stamp on the 2018 season.
"This is the real test for this current management team here," Winslow said. "This is our season. There's no having to inherit things from previous management. There's none of that. It's going to be a long, fast road to June 15 for sure.
"Everybody has their feet wet and everybody's been in the water, so now we're comfortable enough to where I think we have a good stroke and a lot of swim so to speak."
The Doubledays open the season with a three-game homestand against the Muckdogs on June 15, the first of nine meetings between the teams at Falcon Park in 2018.
Auburn has six home games against West Virginia, Mahoning Valley and Williamsport, and host State College five times. The only six home games that aren't against Pinckney Division foes are three games versus Lowell (the Red Sox affiliate) and three games against Connecticut (the Tigers affiliate).
"To be able to see every team come through here and the variety we get to see, I think we have a very good schedule," Winslow said.
The Yankees and Mets affiliates, Staten Island and Brooklyn, will not make the trip to Falcon Park in 2018. The Doubledays have seven games on Friday and five games on Saturday, which are traditionally strong draws, and only four Monday games.
"I don't think the Yankees and Mets (affiliates) are drawing so much that it's dictating our business model," Winslow said. "Does it help? Sure. What we've realized over the season and if you look at some of our attendance numbers and the revenue streams on a game day basis, sometimes our Tuesdays and Wednesdays did better than our Fridays and Saturdays.
"I think we're getting into a market where there's so much going on during the weekends that we're competing against them and our weeknights are better."
Auburn baseball fans have another date to circle.
The Doubledays' annual Hot Stove Dinner will return on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018.
Winslow said there will be appearances by members of the Washington Nationals' front office staff, pro baseball player and Auburn native Tim Locastro and longtime Doubledays manager Dennis Holmberg.
The location for the dinner and other arrangements are still being finalized.
The attendance figures may have dropped in 2017, but Winslow expects good news financially.
Auburn went from averaging 1,427 fans over 37 openings to averaging 1,281 for 36 home games. But with the fiscal year wrapping up soon, Winslow said the ticket revenue and profits are up from 2016 to 2017.
"So even with attendance dipping — and we care about that number — but the revenue is more important than what the actual foot traffic is," Winslow said.
Winslow believes a part of the decline in attendance was the weather over the summer.
"My ponchos sold out 3,000 percent more than the year before," Winslow said with a smile.
"The rain delays almost hurt us more," Winslow added. "I make a decision at 2 p.m. in the afternoon if I'm going to somewhere that night. So if it rains at 2 p.m., me personally? I'm not going that night, which I think that's how a lot of people in our community are."
Winslow's goal, just like last year, is for an overall attendance total of 106,400 — a sellout for every game. While attendance doesn't show the entire picture, it helps drive the other parts of the business.
"The most important part of the business is that, because there's two things we talk about: you've got to get people here and you have to get people coming back," Winslow said. "If those two things don't happen, nobody is buying food. They're not seeing the Tompkins Trust sign out there with their eyeballs, which isn't driving the sponsorship revenue. They're not buying a T-shirt or any hats.
"That drives it, but is it the only revenue entity? Of course not."