New Affiliation Bringing More Business to Cedar Rapids Kernels
By Dave Franzman, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- The start of a new baseball season means a new affiliation for the Cedar Rapids Kernels. And the connection with the Minnesota Twins is bringing in more business even before the first pitch is thrown on Thursday.
The big switch is obvious in the souvenir shop. The Twins logo is in—and the Angels are out. General manager Doug Nelson hopes even long time Kernels fans have an excuse to replace jerseys and other baseball gear with ones sporting the new team logo. But an even bigger impact on business might come from the location of the new Major League club about four hours away in Minneapolis. Nelson said the Twins have a good fan base in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota and those fans have suddenly developed an interest in Cedar Rapids.
“An example would be we’ve sold two 17-game season ticket packages to a couple in Rochester, Minnesota. We’ve had individual ticket sales to people in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota,” Nelson said.
Nelson added that, to date, ticket sales for the Kernels are up about 15 percent this year compared to last. That’s important because attendance in Cedar Rapids averaged just over 2,300 fans a game in 2012. That was the lowest attendance figure since 2002 when the new Veterans Memorial Stadium first opened.
Nelson said the Twins affiliation has also prompted something he didn’t see with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. There are fan groups in Minneapolis organizing bus trips to Cedar Rapids this summer to get a look at future Twins prospects.
Nelson said “those bus trips are overnight and they’ll (30-40 fans) come see a Saturday game, stay over and then see a Sunday game as well.”
Kernels workers scrambling to get everything ready in time for the Thursday opener are excited as well.
And Jesse Roeder, head groundskeeper, said some of that excitement is coming from what they hear from fans anxious to see the new team in town.
“Everywhere I go, people know I work here and they’re asking about the Twins and the change and they really seem excited about it,” he said.
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