The Pittsburgh Pirates will begin their 44th spring training season in Bradenton within the month and throughout those years, the partnership between our community and the Pirates has been rewarding for both parties.
So let's begin by stating the obvious of this rewarding partnership: We all know that spring training baseball will drive millions of dollars of economic impact into the Bradenton area over a six-week period. We also know that Pittsburghers and baseball fans will fill many of our hotels for six weeks in the spring when we have our most amazing weather. What's more, local fans get another chance to interact with Major League Baseball players in an environment that is a throw-back of the 1940s, '50s and '60s. A ballpark and atmosphere that makes adults want to become kids again.
The reward for members of the Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Club is that they will be able to play and showcase their product at what I believe is one of the best spring training facilities in the state of Florida, in a community that is friendly, re-developing and geographically centered on the west coast of Florida. Pirate City offers state-of-the-art amenities, including a housing complex that no other team can offer. The housing complex allows for the franchise to host international teams, minor league players and recently, the Canadian National Rowing Team, which was training at our Fort Hamer Rowing Park.
The Bradenton facilities also give the Pittsburgh Pirates the ability to facilitate instructional programs, mini camps, fantasy camps and high school and collegiate tournaments. Pirate City also has become the franchise's hub for rehabilitating major and minor league players when injured.
Clearly, both parties directly benefit from this partnership, but it's also important to showcase the indirect benefits that our community gains from our partnership with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
When the City of Bradenton decided to execute a spring training agreement with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1969, Bradenton's name began to resonate in many major league cities whose teams trained in Florida. The name Bradenton, Florida, was heard on spring training radio and television
broadcasts, and the city name was read in newspapers, publications and online each spring. Getting a share of the marketplace at that time really put the City of Bradenton on the map.
The cache of hosting a Major League Baseball franchise enhanced Bradenton's brand in the marketplace, convincing native Pittsburghers and many other baseball fans in the Northeast and Midwest to vacation, retire or move a business to Bradenton -- all because the Pittsburgh Pirates' partnership enhanced the City of Bradenton name in the marketplace. I know firsthand because I'm one of an untold number of fans who traded in Pittsburgh for the Bradenton area as my home.
Today, the Bradenton-Pittsburgh Pirates partnership is stronger than ever with a new long-term agreement. The Pirates and our community will get to enjoy a newly renovated McKechnie Field including a new outfield boardwalk that allows fans to circle the entire ball park for the first time, added left field bleachers and additional shaded seating areas are just a few of the fan-friendly improvements.
Our new partnership allows us to increase our marketing program, as the Pirates will provide us with in-kind advertising and promotional programs throughout each baseball season and at PirateFest in December. This opportunity will enhance the awareness of the Bradenton area to a high-level demographic clientele, which will result in an increase in visitation from the Pittsburgh tri-state area of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.
I truly believe in our partnership with the Pirates -- a partnership that is based on trust, respect and balances. The latest partnership led both cities (Bradenton and Pittsburgh) to form an alliance in 2010. This alliance gives both cities the opportunity to share business strategies so both communities can continue to be great places to live and visit.
As a native Pittsburgher, this partnership is obviously special to me. However, it's a storied relationship that goes far beyond my involvement. It's a 44-year successful relationship between a community and a professional baseball franchise that believes in each other, invests in each other and treats each other like family.
Advantage: all involved
Spring training games begin Feb. 22, so purchase your game tickets at Pirates.com, and there is no doubt in my mind that your experience at the enhanced McKechnie Field will be memorable, and the Pirates players will be entertaining.
Let's go Bucs!
Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, can be reached at Elliott.Falcione@BACVB.com or 941-729-9177, ext. 222.