Owners and staff of the new Schaumburg Boomers baseball team are hoping their long-term commitment to the Schaumburg community and Frontier League will win back the trust of area fans and help repair the damaged image of independent league baseball in the Chicago suburbs.
Financial problems experienced in recent years by the Lake County Fielders, Joliet Jackhammers and the Boomers' predecessors -- the Schaumburg Flyers -- have hurt the municipalities in which they're located. And even the most loyal fans, season-ticket holders, have suffered.
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Dave Salvi, vice president of marketing and promotions for the Boomers, said his team is reaching out to 2011 Flyers season-ticket holders who were left high and dry when the team's eviction from the Schaumburg stadium last winter meant the season wasn't played.
Though the Boomers are handling the situation on a case-by-case basis, the team plans to offer special incentives for those able to produce invoices or other proof of payment to the Flyers for 2011 season tickets.
But the Boomers' highest goal is to create an overwhelmingly positive first impression for fans when they first arrive at the revamped Schaumburg baseball stadium next May, Salvi said.
The team employed the services of the White Sox's renowned head groundskeeper Roger Bossard, often called "The Sodfather," for an extensive upgrade to the ballpark's playing surface and its drainage.
With the imminent onset of winter weather, maintenance improvements will now begin on the rest of the stadium, culminating in the likely replacement of the Flyers' old scoreboard in the spring.
While some might see the elimination of the stadium's manual scoreboard as a disappointment, Salvi said most fans will be excited by the new electronic scoreboard that's envisioned.
Improvements to food offerings and other aspects of the fan experience also will be in place by Opening Day, May 25, said Boomers President and General Manager Andy Viano.
"I want people to come to this park for the food," Viano said. "Trying to overcome what's happened here in the past is a fundamental part of what we're trying to do."
Though the team's front-office staff is relatively young, it includes a combined 70 years of experience in professional baseball, Viano added.
Team owner Pat Salvi -- Dave Salvi's father and the brother of former state Rep. Al Salvi -- said he wants the Boomers to provide "the best minor league experience a fan can have," and that work on the stadium is the part of that goal that could be addressed during the offseason.
"There always is a honeymoon period with a new franchise," Pat Salvi said. "The best owners and operators are the ones able to maintain that long-term."
Schaumburg fans will benefit upfront from what he's learned along the way as owner of the Gary SouthShore RailCats, he added.
"I think I've learned that you have to be very responsive to the fans' expectations," Pat Salvi said. "They also expect food and beverages to be high-quality and first-class, and staff to be friendly and customer service-oriented."
Schaumburg Village Manager Ken Fritz said officials from both the village and Schaumburg Park District, which co-own the stadium, have been impressed by the Boomers' level of commitment.
"One of the big things from our perspective is the investment," Fritz said.
Although the team is required by contract to look after the maintenance of the stadium, the Boomers' attention to detail is far exceeding the basics, he said, adding that upkeep had slipped during the last few years under the Flyers.
"They're really looking to do it first-class," Fritz said of the Boomers. "And the Frontier League they're in is a super league. We're impressed with the Salvi organization."