After a week on the road, the Arkansas Travelers have their 106th season home opener Thursday, April 10th. It is the team’s eighth year at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock after leaving the now-demolished, historic Ray Winder Field where had they had played since 1932.
The Travelers averaged over 5,200 fants the first three years at the new park but that has dropped to just over 4,500 last season. General Manager Paul Allen said although attendance has dipped slightly as the appeal of the new ballpark fades, the stadium is still proving its worth.
“Every year there’s a new ballpark, major league, minor league ballpark, there’s always what we call a honeymoon period. There’s always a four, five year period where it’s shiny, it’s new, and so everyone gets really excited and your numbers really peak. Then what happens over time is the allure of what draws people in, that shiny new ballpark kind of fades away a little bit. That said, our numbers are still better than what they were at Ray Winder because of the facilities,” said Allen.
The move to North Little Rock was spurred on by the city’s willingness to work in partnership with the organization to raise funds for the stadium. Allen said the city’s over $28 million investment in the park has a made a mark on the community.
“North Little Rock has done an amazing job with this side of the river with Verizon Arena, with Argenta, with the building of Dickey-Stephens Park, and all the new development that’s been on this side of the river. Our relationship with the city is strong, Mayor Joe Smith is a big supporter,” said Allen.
The organization recently made a deal with the city to re-pay lingering debts incurred due to construction in 2007, which exceeded projected costs.
The Travelers appearance will also be the first time for fans to see first-hand the new mascots and uniforms unveiled in the months preceding the opener.