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Thursday, Aug 21st

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Bringing the wild back to Wild Things

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Washington Wild Things

The Washington Wild Things (independent; Frontier League) was once a flagship franchise, but new owner Stuart Williams is spending his time trying to bring the team back from a slump at the box office.

Washington used to lead the Frontier League in attendance, but these days the team is next-to-last at 1,595 fans a game, behind the Rockford RiverHawks and ahead of the struggling and beerless London Rippers. Last night's attendance of 902 was another in a string of games where the team failed to break the 1K mark at the turnstiles.

Majority owner Stuart Williams has put money into the ballpark -- a new $1 million videoboard, for example -- and the sale of Consol Energy Park from the nonprofit Baseball Scholarships Inc. (which is still involved with the team and the ballpark) to WashCo. Ballpark Holdings probably didn't affect things. What many consider to be the biggest reason for the decline in attendance: the poor economy and the lack of imagination on the promotions/entertainment front.

"My strongest sense of the big picture problem is the economy," Williams told the Post-Gazette. "People don't have the discretionary dollars right now. I wish our record was better than it is and we could put a more winning team on the field, though I don't really think it's the performance of the team in this instance. Everybody that comes to the stadium laughs and has a good time."

"The more bizarre, the better," team spokeswoman Chris Blaine said of fan response to entertainment offerings at the ballpark. "They did a diagnostic last year. In essence they told us our show was tired. The people had lost their zest. And it has to be more than a baseball game."

What may bring money into ballpark coffers: oil drilling in the berm beyond center field. While we're not so sure of the aesthetics of oil drilling next to a ballpark, it would bring in more money to Baseball Scholarships Inc. and also to Consol Energy Park capital investments.

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