Daily Herald file photo/Joe Lewnard
Mother’s Day racing at Arlington Park gets most of the attention. But Father’s Day can actually turn out to be a stronger day for attendance and betting, says general manager Tony Petrillo.
With the lavish brunch, fanciful hats and red roses, Mother’s Day racing at Arlington Park gets most of the attention. But Father’s Day can actually turn out to be a stronger day for attendance and betting, says general manager Tony Petrillo.
“Father’s Day is just as popular as Mother’s Day, and in some ways better,” Petrillo says.
Let’s start with the weather. The climate in Chicago in May can be dicey. June, by comparison, is about the first month Chicagoans can actually say with confidence that summer has arrived.
Thanks to the cold and soggy weather this past May, Mother’s Day attendance was soft at 22,000, Petrillo says. Father’s Day — which is Sunday, June 19 this year — is a lock to draw 26,000 to 30,000 fans each year, Petrillo says.
“Father’s Day is kind of the big kick off to summer,” Petrillo says. “You put on the flip flops, shorts and Hawaiian shirts, and you pretty much know the weather is going to be warm.”
The betting is also better on Father’s Day, he says. Dads tend to be bigger bettors than moms, Petrillo says, and Father’s Day gives them more of a chance to focus on the races.
“On Mother’s Day, dads are in charge of the kids so mom can sit in the clubhouse and enjoy the brunch,” Petrillo says. “On Father’s Day, dad is free to sit back and smoke a cigar, grab a couple of drinks and play a few races.”
Sky Suburban Business Night
Here’s where sports and business really meet: The WNBA’s Chicago Sky is hosting a Suburban Business Night Thursday, June 23, at Allstate Arena in Rosemont. The event, which begins at 3:30 p.m., will feature motivational speakers, a career fair, a networking reception and a ticket to the 7 p.m. game between the Sky and the Connecticut Sun.
Employers at the career fair will feature Sky business partners such as the NBA and WNBA, the Chicago Wolves, Bandits and Rush, Aflac, Jewel, Comcast and First Job in Sports, a headhunting firm, says Sky CEO Adam Fox.
The annual Suburban Business Night has been particularly popular with college students and recent graduates looking for internships and entry-level jobs, Fox says.
“I think there are growing job opportunities for people in professional sports,” Fox says. “The best way for people to get into the business is to go into sales. Teams are always looking for people who can sell tickets, sponsorships and business partnerships.”
Suburban Business Night also provides networking opportunities for the Sky, Fox says.
“By inviting people to come to the career fair, we’re also exposing people to Chicago Sky basketball,” he says. “We’re helping people find internships and jobs, we’re helping our business partners network with people, and we’re hopefully cultivating new fans.”
Tickets to the event are $30. For more information, contact Lindsay Dresser at (312) 994-5988 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If You Build It, Part I
The Chicago Bandits are particularly excited about the start of a new season because they will be playing in a new stadium in Rosemont. With the home opener slated for Thursday, June 16, the Bandits will move into a $6 million softball stadium built by the village of Rosemont.
The women’s professional fastpitch team has spent the past six years bouncing around from one temporary home to another. It played its first three years at Benedictine University in Lisle and the past three seasons at Judson University in Elgin. That last experience included having to haul out temporary seating and Porta-Potties for each game, says Bandits general manager Aaron Moore.
“It will be nice not having to set up the toilets,” Moore jokes.
Rosemont’s desire to build a new stadium came at the right time, Moore says. “The timing was perfect. We were in the process of looking for a new venue and the village was looking for a team for the stadium.”
The stadium, just south of I-190, east of O’Hare International Airport and west of the Tri-State Tollway, is the first facility designed exclusively for fastpitch softball, Moore says. There are just 2,000 seats, which will make for a more intimate experience for fans, and the outfield fences are closer at 210 feet down the lines and 225 to center.
“Usually softball teams are trying to fit into a stadium built for baseball,” Moore says. “This is going to be a great experience for the fans.” For ticket information, visit chicagobandits.com.
If You Build It, Part II
The Lake County Fielders are taking a decidedly different approach when it comes to building a new stadium. Rather than having a stadium built and filling it with a team, the Fielders have already begun playing baseball while their stadium is still being built.
The Fielders, a minor league team co-owned by actor Kevin Costner, will be on the road until July 3, when they open in their new stadium at Route 173 and Green Bay Road in Zion. Meanwhile, a “pop-up” stadium is being constructed using pre-cast concrete and steel, with sections being shipped in and pieced together on site.
“It’s like a puzzle,” says architect Carmelo La Spina, president of LSK Architects Inc. in Arlington Heights.
Olson General Contractors Inc. in Arlington Heights is assembling the sections as part of a five-year plan to eventually have a stadium with an adjacent restaurant and retail complex.
The $2 million project, being funded by the city of Zion, is a far cry from the days when towns would build lavish stadiums to lure minor league teams. Fielders Managing Partner Rich Ehrenreich remembers when he ran the Schaumburg Flyers and the village of Schaumburg spent $19 million to build Alexian Field for the team.
“Public dollars are not nearly as available as they used to be, so every dollar counts,” Ehrenreich says. “It’s a different business model, almost a throwback to the roots of minor league baseball.”
Last season, the Fielders played with portable bleachers, so a “pop-up” stadium, with 7,000 seats and a party deck will be a welcome improvement, says Ehrenreich, who will pay $250,000 in annual rent to Zion.
“Last year, the fans showed their support even when we didn’t have a stadium,” he says.
For information, visit fieldersbaseball.com.
• John Slania covers the business of sports. Contact him at email@example.com.