The Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs lead the nation in minor league baseball attendance. They play in one of the newest and fan-friendliest parks in the nation. And in just their third season they now field a competitive team.
Rather than resting on its laurels, the organization is still doing all it can to provide fans the best experience in minor league baseball.
To that end, an all-new seating area will open for the 2012 season. The Red Robin Tiki Terrace and Oasis at Coca-Cola Park is more than half completed. It will provide three new options for fans to take in an Iron Pigs game.
"That's something that's important to us," said Iron Pigs General Manager Kurt Landes. "That every time you come to the ballpark you can experience it differently so it doesn't get old even in the same year."
The Tiki Terrace and Oasis, which occupies most of the left field concourse, has three seating options.
The Tiki Terrace area includes seats and a picnic area. Much like the PenTeleData Party Porches, the Tiki Terrace is for large groups and parties. There is a picnic area as well as seats that provide not only a great view of the game, but also a chance at pulling in a home run ball.
Another seating option in the Red Robin Oasis is the row of semicircular tables that directly overlook the bullpens. They seat four and are sold in nine-game packages. They include waitress service and cost just $60 per game for the table.
A third option for fans is to simply walk up to the new bar or the walk-up tables that flank it. The entire area is roofed, providing fans some shade for those sunny afternoon games.
Landes and his staff are excited to unveil the new area. For years he had tossed around ideas for the left field concourse. Specific plans for the Red Robin Tiki and Oasis were finalized last year.
"The planning stages in my mind had been in place for about four years," said Landes. "Looking at the blueprints, I noticed we had a larger concourse than we needed for just Speed Pitch. I've always thought that would be an area to expand for us. The idea for building the actual structure and the tiki idea has probably been in our minds for about two years. We wanted to do it last year, but we wanted to make sure it wasn't rushed."
The roof will be thatched and LED palm trees will grace each side.
While most minor league teams don't make these kinds of improvements within their first five years, Landes doesn't want his organization to be like others; he wants it to be ahead of them.
"We don't want to be second place next year in attendance," he said. "In order to be the best you have to keep moving forward. We are fortunate have an ownership group that allows us to reinvest because they realize that if you stay still other teams will come along and pass us."
It is that kind of proactive approach that has drawn over 600,000 fans in each of the past three years.
"I thought when we built the ballpark that we would be very successful," he said. "I thought we could draw a half million fans a year. There are only 10-12 teams that can draw half a million fans a year. To be at 600,000 the first year and to be at 640,000 and to be number one, I had no idea we'd be that successful.
"To be number one in attendance in what is only the 23rd largest Triple A Market, it's a tribute to our fans. We know the fans are passionate about the Phillies and the ballpark and the Iron Pigs."
The new Red Robin seating areas are selling fast, according to Landes, who expects the new areas could be sold out before the season begins.
By that time Landes will already have his sights set on next year's improvements.
"I get into April and I'm starting to think about the next season," he said. "You can't wait until Fall to start thinking about next year. There's always going to be ways for us to improve the experience. I don't know what's next for 2013. Actually, I have some ideas."