Fireworks, patriotic jerseys and a future Hall of Fame player helped the Trenton Thunder hit the attendance jackpot over the holiday weekend, setting new team attendance records.
General manager Will Smith said the team expected sellout crowds for the popular Fourth of July weekend series, but saw standing-room only numbers for two rehabilitation assignment games by New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.
On Sunday, the Thunder drew a crowd of 9,212 — a single-game record for the club — and 18,214 total fans came out for both of Jeter's appearances. Five of the top 10 attended games for Trenton have been games where Jeter has appeared.
Jeter, who is on a quest to reach 3,000 hits, was rehabbing a strained calf muscle.
Smith said the team has a "checklist" of preparations for anticipated crowd spikes when major leaguers spend time at the single-A park.
"We make a conscious effort to pull together resources we don't normally use," Smith said. "We contacted our sister team in Lakewood, and frankly, we used simple things. We got stanchions from them to help move people in lines that probably we normally don't have, but it helps alleviate traffic on the concourse. We borrowed some of their employees. … We have good partnerships with the local police authorities and Mercer County Sheriff's department, and we doubled the number of officers we have on staff."
Smith said while still too early to determine exact numbers, special events like Jeter's appearance have a positive financial impact beyond increased attendance. Smith said he finds fans "even subconsciously, probably open their wallet more" at special games.
"The total revenue was much greater, but the average revenue per person was greater as well, and we saw that a couple years ago when we hosted the All-Star Game," Smith said. "It's a special occurrence, and people gear up for that. They know that they want to buy the souvenir from that event, opposed to another event, to help remember that special event."