Arkansas Travelers Baseball Club

City: North Little Rock
Category: Category III (76-300 Employees)
Year: 2008

The Arkansas Travelers' 2008 season was a hit on and off the baseball diamond.

The Travs, founded in 1901, won their seventh Texas League Championship in September by beating the Frisco RoughRiders in a final game of a five-game series.

The Class AA team, affiliated with Major League Baseball's Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, also hit a grand slam at the box office.

For the second consecutive year, the Travs broke their own attendance record with nearly 378,000 fans, up 1.3 percent from 2007, said Pete Laven, the Travelers' general manager.

In 2007, the Travelers played their first season at the $37 million Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock, after being at Ray Winder Field in Little Rock for 74 years.

"The new ballpark has been such a gift," Laven said. "It's just transformed our organization immeasurably."

In 2008, the team's revenue climbed 14 percent to about $4 million, Laven said.
Laven credits a "strong sales staff" with ensuring that a steady stream of spectators is coming to the 70 home games a season.

"In this day and age, it's all about having as many picnic-party areas, suite rentals [and] ... a party deck," Laven said. "If you're able to book those areas, it's a guaranteed attendance."

To attract people in a sluggish economy, the 2009 season will be packed with special events, such as fireworks, clunker car night — during which a used car is given away each inning — and midget wrestling.

"We're willing to take chances and not always be the most politically correct," Laven said.

The Travs' tradition will help the team weather a sour economy, he said.

"I think people know we're here to stay," Laven said. "And there's no other form of entertainment like professional baseball anywhere else in the area."

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