By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Between food trucks and a professional wrestling show, the Bristol Blues have brought a variety of entertainment to Muzzy Field throughout their third season.
Now that the city has extended its lease with the Blues for the next five years, the baseball team will be able to bring even more entertainment to the historic Muzzy Field.
Last month, the Board of Park Commissioners approved the city’s lease with the Bristol Blues for use of Muzzy Field from Jan. 1, 2018 to the end of 2022.
“It shows the positive attitude the city has for Bristol’s future,” said Bob Dabkowski, an owner of the Blues.
“I’m looking forward to the next five years,” added Ed Swicklas, general manager of the Blues.
Dabkowski said the five-year extension will give the baseball team time to promote other events at Muzzy, including the FanFest, which they hope to make even bigger and better next year. Held just a few days before the Blues opening game, the first-ever FanFest brought food trucks, games and other family-friendly entertainment to Muzzy.
“Now we have a good base to really build on other promotions at Muzzy Field,” said Dabkowski, adding how the team looks forward to expanding experiences for fans. “This gives us time to put our marketing efforts together.”
As the city’s former superintendent of parks and recreation, Swicklas saw firsthand the benefits of having a baseball team in Bristol, such an affordable night out for families.
“It’s a good night out and family fun,” said Swicklas.
Made up of players from New England and around the country, the Bristol Blues play in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League. Since making Bristol their home in 2014, the Blues have seen their attendance rate grow. In 2016, the attendance rate per game doubled from 1,300 fans to 1,600.
This season, attendance has remained about the same as last year, said “We have a decent core group of people,” said Swicklas.
Brian Wilson, the city’s new superintendent of parks and recreation, said the Blues have brought in folks of all ages to Muzzy.
“It’s a wide demographic. It can be the whole family, grandparents bringing their grandchildren. I was impressed to see so many kids there,” said Wilson, adding how the games have become a meeting place for community members to socialize.
Noting how excited he feels to continue working with the Blues for the next five years, Wilson said when he began his new role in late June, the ground work was already laid for Bristol’s lease with the team.
“Just coming on board, I was able to get a sense of how the relationship has worked over the last several years, what we can do to improve that,” said Wilson.
Wilson said the Blues have brought more activity to Muzzy Field, while adding to the other events that take place at Rockwell Park. When the Blues held its All-Star game, a fireworks show and a concert also took place that night.
“There was a lot going on, so it’s great to see the community out at Rockwell Park and Muzzy Field,” said Wilson.
Both located on North Main Street, the Blues and the parks department looks forward to their collaboration. While parks department staff works hand-in-hand with the ball club to make sure Muzzy is clean and prepared in time for games, Wilson said he has established a good working relationship with the Blues management team.
“We’re working with them to hone how those experiences work, what we can work together on and coordinate,” said Wilson.
Wilson added that this partnership will benefit the city as whole, as well as the parks and recreation department, where he hopes to continue events like the outdoor movie night scheduled for this Friday (Sept. 8) at 6:30 p.m.
“I think we’re going to have an established audience for other things,” said Wilson. “I’m looking forward to collaborating with them.” Swicklas.