by Eric Peterson, Daily Herald
In their first season back after the 2020 pandemic shutdown, the Schaumburg Boomers have been setting franchise attendance records and seeing, for the first time, fans wearing the home team's merchandise, outnumbering those in Cubs and White Sox gear at Wintrust Field.
Over the Fourth of July weekend, the Boomers -- now in their 10th year at the Schaumburg stadium -- set both single-game and weekend attendance records.
While previous records were set by daycamp days and games aimed at group sales, this was a weekend dominated by individual ticketholders.
"That's what makes this rather special," said Boomers Vice President and General Manager Michael Larson. "That's something we've been seeing a dramatic increase of in 2021 over previous years."
Last Friday's attendance was 5,687, Saturday's was 6,940, and the record was set on July 4 when 7,623 fans attended.
While the weather helped, Larson added that an emphasis on the quality of the fan experience is something the team has embarked on to make up for an expected loss of group sales in the wake of the pandemic.
The attendance figures lead those of the Frontier League, to which the team belongs, as well as fellow independent league the American Association of Professional Baseball.
That's during a season in which it's been easier to draw fans than employees. Staffing at Wintrust Field is just enough to do what the team had hoped this season, but the front office would love to have more, Larson said.
The one way the Boomers have been ensuring the staffing levels are appropriate for the crowd sizes is to impose an early cutoff on ticket sales for lawn space, which has no specific limit. But if more people were hired, ticket sales this year might be even higher, Larson said.
Merchandise sales probably couldn't be, though.
"Our merchandise sales have skyrocketed this year," he said. "It's great to see the brand growing in this way."
The team is not resting on the success of the first half of the season, knowing that bad weather and a string of poor performances on the field can impact sales, Larson said.
Wintrust Field is owned by the village of Schaumburg. Mayor Tom Dailly said he appreciates the team's success in the venue and gives much of the credit to Larson.
"He seems to be the creative force behind the team," Dailly said. "The village has been very receptive to the ideas he's come up with. ... People are looking for exactly what's being provided by the village of Schaumburg in conjunction with the Boomers. You don't even have to pay for parking. It's an affordable, family-friendly experience."