With baseball season underway at Whitaker Bank Ballpark, Legends general manager Seth Poteat, general manager of the Lexington Legends, wants all of central Kentucky to know that it is not just about baseball.
“Yes, this is a baseball park, but we view ourselves as a family entertainment center,” Poteat said.
From fireworks shows to family friendly promotions, the company works to offer something for everyone during its 70 scheduled home games, but the ballpark stays busy even when the teams aren’t taking the field. During the off-season or when the Legends aren’t in town, the park could be hosting concerts, mixed martial arts fights, charity events, wedding receptions or the state high school baseball tourney.
“We can do anything we want,” Poteat said.
This baseball season — Lexington’s 13th in the South Atlantic League — the Legends have a lot more to tout than 36-cent Hot Dog Tuesdays.
Deeper than a new-look and logo, there’s a fresh air of excitement emanating from the organization’s management and staff. Legends president and COO Andy Shea attributes it, in part, to their affiliation with the very “farm team”-friendly Kansas City Royals.
Shea said he knew the American League franchise would be a great parent club from the time his father, Bill, was majority owner of the AAA Omaha Royals. After the latest contract with the Houston Astros expired, the Sheas said they jumped at the chance for a four-year deal with KC in January.
“The difference is night and day, how much the Royals care about their minor-league teams,” said Shea, 31.
But Shea said that the Bluegrass had a lot to offer the Royals as well. “Lexington is an unbelievably attractive location for a minor league team — from being sports-minded to great weather to overall demographics,” he said. “With the sheer number of people, this is one of the biggest markets for Single A baseball.”
Whitaker is also bigger than most Single A parks (6,000-plus seating capacity) and has two state-of-the-art video boards. “No one else in our league has that,” said Shea, who sees no immediate need to add to the facility.
Overall, Shea said, the Lexington Legends are in a strong position, and he credits that to the leadership and foresight of founder and former president Alan Stein, who taught Shea about sales and promotion, and former owner Brad Redmond.
“I don’t know of another minor league team that owns its own facility,” Shea said.
Shea and Poteat expect the Royals to stock their new Lexington farm team with loads of talent.
“We should contend,” Shea said. That should be welcome news for the Legends corporate sponsors as well as the fans, who were spoiled the first year when the Astros did the same and the Legends won the ’01 SAL crown.
Jenna Hammons, assistant vice president and director of marketing for Whitaker Bank, said the company’s involvement at the venue goes beyond name recognition.
“Community is huge for us, so we’re not just a name (on a stadium),” Hammons said. For example, the bank sponsored the Hits for Home Invitational at the stadium, with 16 high school teams from counties affected by last year’s devastating tornadoes. Proceeds went to the Salvation Army for those areas.
Hammons said Whitaker is big on having a presence at the ballpark. “We love the family-friendly atmosphere and being part of something special,” she said. “And, we try to use the bank’s suite every night – even if it’s just for employees.”
Chick-fil-A of Central Kentucky is another sponsoring company that has taken a hands-on approach to marketing with the Legends. In addition to its daily presence at the ballfield, Chick-Fil-A has also extended its partnership into the community. The company sponsors the Legends’ Hit the Books program, in which kids compete by reading books to earn free tickets to ballgames. The school with the largest cumulative attendance also gets a Chick-Fil-A Nugget Party at season’s end.
“We love being able to go into the schools [with this program],” said Chris Wilson, area marketing director. “We love giving back to the community, so our partnership with the Legends is a winning combination.”
“We are legitimately all about the community,” said Shea, adding that everyone on the Legends staff is involved in a non-profit, youth sports team or area chamber of commerce.” Personally, he sits on the board of three non-profits and serves as a Big Brother as well.
Shea, who owns Trust Lounge in the courthouse district, said he’s applied a lot of what he’s learned about helping nonprofits gain exposure at the ballpark to his upscale watering hole.
“I know we do more charity events than any bar around,” he said. “And, I’ve been able to cross-market, bringing people from that world to the Legends.”
Although he grew up in Philadelphia – with sports allegiances, naturally, to the Phillies, Sixers, Eagles and Flyers – Shea doesn’t see himself leaving Lexington.
“I’ve loved my eight years here,” he said.
As a baseball player at Boston College, Shea dreamed of being a major leaguer himself — until he tore a shoulder as a sophomore.
“So, the next best thing to playing is working in baseball,” he said. “Plus, you get to see the stars of tomorrow.”