Biloxi Shuckers owner Ken Young has weathered his fair share of storms since deciding to move his Southern League team from Huntsville, Alabama, to Biloxi.
MGM Park didn’t open until two months into the 2015 season; attendance dipped in 2016; and then the city of Biloxi filed a lawsuit against the Shuckers’ ownership group in December.
On Wednesday, it was all blue skies and sunshine at MGM Park.
A crowd of 3,708 showed up to watch the home opener for the Biloxi Shuckers, easily eclipsing the 2,542 at the 2016 home opener.
Young said one of the team’s goals is to improve early-season attendance and he hopes new promotions for 2017 will make sure Wednesday night’s crowd becomes the norm.
One of those new promotions is a fireworks show after every Saturday home game. There’s also Thirsty Thursday, Military Monday and All-You-Can-Eat Wednesday.
“We have really good giveaways, more fireworks nights. Things the fans really like,” Young said Wednesday at MGM Park. “We have a bunch of things that will make it a little more fun at the ballpark to build up that attendance.”
The Shuckers averaged 2,692 fans a game last year to rank eighth out of 10 Southern League teams, but he’s confident work put in during the offseason will help that figure rise.
“The fans are beginning to see what this park is all about,” he said. “It doesn’t happen overnight. We’ve been out in the community at a lot of things.
“During the offseason, we got to a lot of different functions and spoke to a lot of groups. That’s one of the lifelines of minor league baseball.”
Biloxi filed suit against Biloxi Baseball and Overtime Sports Management in December, saying it had been unable to determine how much Biloxi Baseball owed the city for rent, advertising and ticket sales under a stadium lease because Biloxi Baseball and Overtime Sports have failed to account for sales.
In March, the city announced it had reached agreements with Young’s group as well as Overtime Sports, which manages the Conference USA Tournament and concerts at MGM Park.
Young said Wednesday the relationship between his group and the city has improved.
“It’s pretty good. I know over the wintertime we had a few things that seemed problematic,” he said. “It’s good the city is working with us to try to build attendance. We have a good relationship from the mayor on down.”
Young chalked up the early disagreement to a lack of communication among the three parties.
“That caused the problem because we weren’t talking about huge amounts of money or anything like that,” he said. “It was a lack of communication, but I think we’ve resolved that now. We looking forward to just a good relationship.”
Who: Shuckers vs. Pensacola Blue Wahoos
When: 6:35 p.m. Friday
Where: MGM Park, Biloxi
Radio: 100.9 FM, 1240 AM