Definition of progress (Entry 2 of 2)
I’ve told the story of my first-ever visit to Coca Cola Park many times. It was a rainy Friday in April, 2008. My kids were 9 and 5, and it was just the three of us as Mrs. Kram was working. We were interested in the fireworks, of course. As we walked through the gates to the park, for the very first time, I was handed a free program to introduce me to the park. It was a nice welcome, and something I didn’t necessarily recall happening on my previous visits to minor league ballparks in Moosic, Syracuse, and Erie. It was a great thing, I thought, and I recall taking it home at the end of the evening to read more about the team, the stadium, and the organization.
But in 2019 we can say good-bye to Pork Illustrated as we knew it. Progress. It is now an “online” publication, view-able at PorkIllustrated.com. The advantages are many, of course: The information can be up-to-the-minute, up to date. The advertisements can have hyper-links to take you to the businesses web locations. The stats can be searchable and filterable. And, it’s all optimized for smart-phone viewing.
The other advantage, and one the IronPigs organization has been trumpeting quite loudly, is that it will save on resources–meaning the paper the programs are normally printed on. But wait, there’s more! The “War on Paper” has extended to the organization as a whole. We’ve also seen the demise of lineup forms and rosters as we previously knew them (you can buy a nice lineup form and pencil for $1 at the store.) I’ve seen it first hand in the press box as well, as only certain scouts have access to any printed material without making a special request. The TV crew has to request the exact number of forms they require, prior to each game, in order to limit the photocopies (which are sponsored, by the way, by the nice folks at Cyan Sky.) The official Media Guide is only available in .PDF format this season.
So Many Problems
If you’ve read this far, you can already identify the myriad problems as we progress to this new era of the game program. You can also probably figure out the reason this is all happening. First, let’s identify a few things in detail:
- Not everyone has a smartphone. Just try loading that thing on Grandma’s flip phone. This alienates a whole demographic of fans–many of whom are here as part of groups, which are a source of marketing targets for future sales.
- Smartphones are difficult to read in the sun, due to glare.
- Not all smartphones have screens large enough to accommodate the detail and advertising in the program, and make it less useful for anyone to bother with.
- The digital program depends on the internet, which also depends on the cell signal, data plan and phone capabilities. This can make loading pages cumbersome.
- “Keeping score” had already become somewhat of a lost art, and now without a lineup sheet or the scorecard within the program, it becomes that much more difficult.
- The program can be somewhat of a keepsake to take home from the game. You can have it signed by players. You can look at it again later. It is a fan-engagement item, and while the digital version can be re-accessed from anywhere, any time, it’s far less tangible and engaging. Once on the internet, there are many more choices than re-reading Pork Illustrated.
- Staring at your phone can be dangerous during a baseball game, even with the netting in place. I’ve had six foul balls already this season, and I’m technically behind the net.
- Spearheading the “War on Paper” makes the job more difficult for a variety of folks in the media department, as well as those covering the game. Media coverage in minor league sports is not a given, and they shouldn’t be looking for ways to make it more difficult.
- Nacci Printing was a “founding partner” and long-time sponsor for the team. While this decrease in printed material seems good at first glance, it is my hope that long-time sponsors can continue to afford to support the team and haven’t been alienated by this campaign.
Let’s now address the elephant in the blog: This is being done to save money, right?
Or, do we think it’s being done purely to save the environment?
And yes, yes, the digital edition does require costs such as hosting, set-up, formatting, and ongoing fees for continued updates and tweaks.
You should know after all these years, I’m not one to just complain about stuff–I’m here pointing out the problems with the hope that things can improve, and I’m happy to provide suggestions. So let me fix this whole thing. Yay, progress!
First, the environment
Saving the earth and lowering the carbon footprint are worthwhile pursuits. Let me help:
- Paper is recyclable. If you bring back the program (they won’t) then set up specific boxes where they can be recycled. I know it’s shiny paper, but you could switch to recycled paper, which could also be more easily re-used in some manner. Non-glossy paper is easier to read in the sun and under the lights, anyway. A special paper recycling bin could be placed in the press box for reporters to use after they finish with the days game notes, lineup cards, etc. Re-use paper clips rather than stapling everything that makes recycling more difficult.
- While we’re at it, provide more spots for other recycling around the park–especially additional aluminum stations. If there’s not one between my seat and the bathroom, then that can might get chucked in the regular garbage, and there’s no need for that in 2019.
- Cut down on paper in other places:
- Install air dryers in ALL bathrooms–Reading uses Dyson Air Blades in their new rest rooms, which are very nice and efficient.
- Some of the paper used by the concessions could be decreased.
- Stop giving out pigsfoodfinder.com menus in printed form, which just started this season, and seems kind of counter-productive with this paper campaign. Handing out paper is OK, as long as it sells more food? Is that the message?
- What about the plastic bags the store gives out? Are they always necessary? How about switching to paper which is more recyclable?
- All printed material could be distributed via .pdf to media prior to the games. We already get game notes that way, it wouldn’t be that much more difficult–would push some of us to make sure we have a tablet along in addition to a phone and/or laptop.
- Switch to paper straws. I know everyone hates them, but I bet the stadium uses a ton of plastic straws for each game.
- Switch stadium lighting to LED. In addition to massive savings on electricity, it would allow for some cool light-show scenarios. Other lighting could be switched over to LED around the park, if that hasn’t already been done. My office electric bill went from $600-$700 per month to $150 when I switched all the lighting to LED. It paid for itself in a couple months.
- Install solar panels on some of the unused land near the park. There’s plenty of room–although you might need to acquire some of that land, it’s not being used otherwise and it doesn’t seem like they can sell it.
- Install wind turbines on the roof. Small ones would look cool and contribute to the electricity usage. Lincoln Financial Field has them.
- There are probably many other earth-friendly things that could be done around the park and in the organization. I’m not a professional in these matters, but hiring an energy/recycling consultant may allow you to find additional areas for savings.
Fixing the digital version
- The biggest thing, I think, would be to have reliable Wi-Fi installed throughout the park. PPL Center was able to do it. With good Wi-Fi, folks could bring iPads/tablets to view the online program more easily, and those with smartphones could load it much quicker and more reliably. Scrolling through the pages would be easier. There’s usually a pretty good cell signal for me–but that may not follow for everyone, and data plans and providers vary.
- I know there needs to be advertisements, but that needs to be evaluated as well: They need to be presented in a way that gets attention for the sponsors, but also allows the digital publication to be readable and useful. I’m not sure it’s that, now. Heck, the version depicted here is 95 pages! 95! That’s a lot of scrolling and swiping of pages filled with mostly advertisements.
Look, I don’t begrudge the business side of this organization at all. So here are a couple ideas that might save or make some money to help the bottom line:
- The first thing is to re-think the position and purpose of the game program. Going all the way back to the start of the IronPigs, the fan base has responded better to things that are more “big league” than some of the “down-home” stuff they do at the lower levels. I’m thinking things like the way the music and graphics are done, the LED ribbon boards and the big jumbo-tron, and the concessions. For that reason, I propose bringing back the game program as a premium, full-glossy item, in a larger format, and with a pull-out recyclable game day sheet(s) with a score form. You could sell the program for probably $7-$15, and it becomes a souvenir and keepsake. The sights and sounds of programs being sold gives the park a big-league feel, and you’ve converted your free program into a profit center.
- The electricity-saving options above have the potential to save significantly on the bottom line, and would pay for themselves quite quickly I would imagine. In addition, depending on the scale of the solar/wind options, there could be the opportunity to sell electricity back into the grid during the off-season, and even make a little money.
- Given the political connections the team has made over the years, there’s also the possibility that funding for solar panels, necessary land acquisition, or wind apparatus could be defrayed with grant money from the city and/or state. Yes, that’s tax money–but I’m here trying to make things better for the IronPigs and for the fans, and that money would probably go to somewhere else if we don’t get it (Like Moosic?!?) It would at least be worth looking into–and might be a nice thing to publicize, too.
On From Here
As we move on from here, in the name of progress, let me know your thoughts and ideas on how to improve the program dilemma over at Coca Cola Park. Please leave these in the comments rather than on SpaceBook–that way we can all participate. Email will not appear, and comments will be approved quickly. Thanks, friends!
See you at the park,