When Scott Brown took over as general manager of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans one year ago, he was prepared for every facet of the job - except maybe for the competition.
Not the opposing pitchers and players of the Carolina League, but the Grand Strand's abundance of entertainment options the minor league team must fight for customers.
"We have a lot of great attractions in the area and a lot of competition for the entertainment dollar," he said. "In this market, you have to offer something fun and affordable."
After his previous stints in Binghamton, N.Y., and St. Lucie, Fla., two cities that are as far away from tourist towns as they are from Myrtle Beach, Brown and his staff had to get creative to compete with the Strand's myriad golf courses (both regular and miniature), dinner theaters, water parks, and entertainment and shopping complexes.
Instead of only competing with other local businesses, the Pelicans also have chosen to partner with them to share business. But most of all they have had to get creative to offer affordable and fun entertainment for the entire family - from one-night-only promotions and appearances to weekly offers that keep them coming back for more.
"We understand that not everybody is a hard-core baseball fan so we try to offer a lot more than just the game," Brown said. "We try to put on 70 different shows a year so people can come to the ballpark multiple times and see something different every night. That, along with our weekly promotion, gives our fans more bang for their buck."
The result is a two-pronged approach geared toward putting fans in the stands - weekly deals like Wiener Wednesdays ($1 hot dogs) and Thirsty Thursdays ($1 beers) that builds loyalty among locals, along with single-game shows such as a fire-stunt man and cowboy monkey rodeo, and themes such as Royal Wedding Night and Jersey Shore Night.
But the biggest hit by far has been the Pelicans' postgame fireworks show, which have been increased again this year to 17 nights. It's a blast for locals and tourists alike.
"I come for the game but my wife and kids love the fireworks," said Jerry Daniel, who was buying tickets to today's opener. "We'll get to see both on Opening Day."
The biggest factor for many potential visitors is cost. Pelicans tickets range from $7 to $13 depending on the seat and time of season, and home fans can purchase a reserved seat for as cheap as $6 with a local ID.
Season ticket-holders can get an even bigger break by buying in bulk for a ringside seat to the games and the shows.
Jeff Mense and his daughter Emily have been attending games since the Pelicans first landed on the Grand Strand in 1999, the past five years as season ticket-holders.
"We pay a lump sum at the start of the season and go all year," Mense said. "I think Emily missed five or six games last season and I went to most of them, so we definitely get our money's worth. There's always something different going on so it never gets old."
The games and entertainment are just part of the package they purchase. Their favorite part is meeting the Pelicans players before they move up the minor-league ladder.
"We have the best seats in the house right behind the home dugout so we get to know all the players as they try to work their way up to the big leagues," Mense said. "We've met several who have made it, a lot more who have not, but it's great to get to know them and root for them to reach their dream."
And you can't put a price tag on that.