BELOIT—With the Beloit Snappers’ 2021 season in the books it’s time for a little self-reflection.
We’re not talking about the players and coaches, whose up-and-down season culminated in a 55-65 won-loss record and a 4th place finish in the High-A Central Division.
Rather, this Q&A with Team President Jeff Jurgella is about the state of the franchise. Fans experienced ABC Supply Stadium for the first time and now the team-to-be-named-later is heading into what should be an interesting off-season.
BDN: Before we start analyzing the 2021 season, how about giving us a hint as to when the team will announce its new nickname?
JURGELLA: “Later this fall. We hope to have it done sometime in November. When I interviewed for this job back in December and I looked at the names that were out there, I didn’t think any of the five was an obvious choice. Fast forward a few months and now that I know what it is, most importantly the story behind it is really cool. We are going to go through great expense to create a video that will help us share this story and launch. I think people in the Stateline will appreciate it. It’s not just what is the cutest logo and how many sweatshirts can we sell as a result. There is a meaningful story about this new name that speaks to the momentum the Stateline area has generated in the past 10 or 15 years.”
BDN: Fair enough. But even if we’re the Beloit Beetleboppers or the Stateline Sledgehammers, we haven’t totally seen the last of Snappy, have we?
JURGELLA: “No, Snappy isn’t 6 feet under. He’s still alive and well. He’s just going to have to get used to having a friend who is going to be more prominent around the ballpark.”
BDN: Your biggest star of 2021 had to be the new stadium. The opener backed the place and you had some other strong attendance nights. How did you feel about the crowds in general?
JURGELLA: “Obviously COVID knocked out all of 2020 and we did not inherit a huge fan base. We had seven full season ticket holders and with half-seasons and quarter-seasons mixed in, the equivalent of eight more. So 15 season ticket holders. We’re going into this off-season hoping for a thousand next year. We’re very excited about having a full off-season of planning for it.”
BDN: Are you happy now that you were able to at least break the new stadium in, even if it might have been a bit of a rush?
JURGELLA: Absolutely we felt it was important for us to squeeze a few homestands in here to learn and figure things out for next season. First of all, everyone loves the design, the feel, the big league nature of the stadium. It’s the downtown views, the river, the bricks, the general ambience.
“People were just floored. I was out at the center field gates opening night and people were buying their tickets and when they came around the corner and saw the stadium inside for the first time their reaction was, ‘Oh, my God.’ I heard that reaction a dozen times.”
BDN: What were some of the more useful things you learned going forward?
JURGELLA: “We sent out surveys to everyone we have an email for with six or seven questions. Out of hundreds of surveys, I think I saw the word ‘parking’ only about five times. People have figured it out. There are short walks from free parking in the city. It was our intent all along to get people to park downtown and walk by businesses.
“We found out we have a ways to go on our game day staffing. It is part of our culture to make the place very welcoming and I thought we made some very good strides. We had a lot of young staffers and maybe they’re a little intimidated talking to adults, but we saw growth with that very young staff. I think they enjoyed working here and that’s important in terms of retention. We want a more polished staff here next year. That comes from Quint (Studor) and ownership. They want people to come here with energy and have fun.”
BDN: You had several job fairs. Were you having trouble finding staff?
JURGELLA: “Any restaurant these days has trouble finding staff. We had trouble reaching full staff and late in the season you have kids going back to college or kids involved with high school and their availability becomes less. We also had some growing pains with our food and beverage operation. I think people liked the offerings we had, but there are some things we need to work on. We had signage that was late in coming and that might have confused some people. We found we need some more satellite operations for those fans who just want a particular item, like a beer. We will be much better prepared for those sorts of requests next year.”
BDN: What were some other short-falls you plan to attack in 2022?
JURGELLA: “We had a very minimal promotional schedule and that’s what we heard the most about, along with the scoreboard. Next season we will have theme nights, bobble heads and giveaways that we know people want. We have hired a sales staff that will allow us to do more outreach. Beloit certainly isn’t big enough to support the finances here. We need to reach into the Stateline Area—Rockford, Rockton, Roscoe, Janesville, Monroe, Lake Geneva—making sure our radius is a whole lot bigger than it used to be.
“The scoreboard (which never displayed the graphics it was supposed to) was really disappointing.It turns on just fine. It’s the integration of the hardware and the software in our control room. We had all sorts of issues and back orders. Next season for sure it will work perfectly.
“We had ordered five cameras and they never did show up. We had to rent three. I thought what our team was able to do with three cameras was very impressive, but next year it will be a much more polished operation.”
BDN: The season might be over, but plenty still seems to be going on at the stadium and not just the souvenir store.
JURGELLA: “There is a push for revenue and (the Stadium Club) will be utilized a great deal in the off-season as well as the stadium. Last week we hosted an event for ABC Supply with 2,300 people. They loved it. Non-baseball events will be the key to making the finances of this ballpark work. We have to utilize it 250 days out of the year, whether it is wedding receptions or business gatherings or whatever. We’re also hoping to book some concerts with the stage in the outfield next year.”
BDN: Any other sporting events on tap?
JURGELLA: “UW-Whitewater is playing their fall ball intrasquad game here in a couple of weeks. We plan on hosting a Beloit Memorial and a Beloit College game in the future, too. We haven’t talked to anyone about soccer or football here yet, but we’re open to it. We’ve even talked about putting an ice rink up on the infield during the winter for hockey or even recreational skating. We’re just checking on the feasibility of that. With our lights and music, I think it would be a lot of fun.”