The Baseball Trade Show set up shop at the Baseball Winter Meetings at Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas this week. (Tim Newcomb)
LAS VEGAS — The Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas was crawling with folks looking for the latest news on Major League Baseball free agent signings this week. But stadiums — design, food and everything that keeps them going — were a major topic in another part of the annual Baseball Winter Meetings: The 2018 Baseball Trade Show handles stadiums too.
Brands of all sorts descend on the conference center-filling trade show, which ran Monday through Wednesday, appealing to the mixture of visitors with everything from on-field gear to training equipment to in-venue experiences.
In the venues category, companies ran the gamut, offering up concession items — hot dogs to ice pops to popcorn — giveaways, premium seating styles, videoboard technology, architectural services, in-stadium graphic displays, blow-up mascots and plenty more. Every vendor, though, wanted to catch the eye of a decision-maker.
“Teams are eating it up,” said Cliff Kennedy, new CEO of Frios Gourmet Pops, in his effort to introduce the 4-year-old ice pop company into ballparks. “We want to be an alternative to Dippin’ Dots. It is an easy self-serve for concessionaires, and we can give the sticks a private label.”
Kennedy said the company hasn’t ever served stadiums, but with the goal of offering services either directly to teams or working through a concessionaire, it thought this was the year to get set up for the hot summer months with an all-natural product.
Elsewhere, Garry Poe, event producer for Indiana-based Melrose Pyrotechnics, said fireworks remain a big draw for minor league teams, consistently creating the busiest nights on their schedule and generating more than enough money on gate receipts and concessions to offset the cost of the fireworks.
Poe said teams run fireworks anywhere from eight to 25 nights a summer, creating a community-minded promotion — full of sponsorship opportunities — that ensures fans remain in the park spending money no matter the score of the game as they wait for the postgame show.
For those interested in building a new stadium, HOK was on hand to show off, in virtual reality, the new ballpark for the hometown Las Vegas Aviators minor league team. “We work in all size venues,” said Ed Hurtig, senior design professional for HOK. “It is all about connections and meeting folks.”
Steve Schreiber, Daktronics marketing specialist, said the South Dakota-based maker of videoboards and displays was on hand to connect with customers while showing off its latest wares. He said that in ballparks, the focus isn’t just technological capability, although Daktronics is always happy to show that off, but also the capability of creating an interactive experience. “It is all about the fun,” he said. “That is where we are seeing it go right now.”
Mark Beskid, assistant general manager of the Lake Elsinore Storm, a Class A team in California with a nearly 8,000-seat stadium, was moving amid the rows of booths, checking out new vendors, getting additional quotes and searching specifically for new promotional items. “It is good to see new stuff, things you can add,” he said.