The Toyota of Redlands Garage group space proved popular with fans in its first year at San Manuel Stadium in San Bernardino, Calif. (Courtesy Inland Empire 66ers)

Group space with auto repair shop theme a winner for Inland Empire 66ers

The Inland Empire 66ers minor league baseball team can’t wait to open the door to their “garage” at San Manuel Stadium again this season.

The Toyota of Redlands Garage is a group space situated behind the first-base dugout at the ballpark, in San Bernardino, Calif. It’s a cool communal setting for 35 people with lounge-style seating.

The retrofit debuted for the 2018 season and the feedback from fans and corporate partners renting the garage was overwhelmingly positive, said Joe Hudson, the team’s general manager.  The 66ers, owned by Elmore Sports Group, are the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s Advanced Class A affiliate and a member of the California League.

San Manuel Stadium, a 5,000-seat facility originally designed by the old HOK Sport, opened in 1996 with a dozen suites and company picnic areas common across minor league baseball. The ballpark, though, lacked the kind of space now trending across sports for the average fan to hang out and interact with others apart from their seats, Hudson said.

The team spent $250,000 to build the area, developed in tandem with design consultant Chris Lamberth. The project involved removing 440 seats to build the group area plus a public bar attached to the retrofit. The space itself sells for $1,200 a game which includes a food package. The 66ers signed a three-year sponsorship deal with a local Toyota dealership.

“You’re literally right in the middle of the action,” Hudson said.

The 66ers brought in local contractors and artists to help theme the space with a rustic feel reminiscent of an old auto repair shop.

“What we’ve heard from our season-ticket holders and single-game buyers is that the bar area is a great place to step away from your seat for a while and enjoy a drink with friends,” Hudson said. “We’ve had good success selling (the area). The bar is creating equal to above-average revenue compared to ticket revenue for the same space in previous years.”