The conclusion of the 2014 Peninsula Oilers baseball season in the Alaska Baseball League and the 41st season for the Oilers featured a Fan Appreciation Day, packed-house, offensive barrage; which provided Oilers fans an experience to carry through to the next opening day for summer baseball
Underlying, however, the Peninsula Oilers are struggling financially. Like many Alaska League teams have experienced in the past and currently, the Oilers must deal with an ever-increased gap between revenue and expenses.
Peninsula Sports provides a three-part series on the health of the Peninsula Oilers with an overview of financial hardships faced by the baseball club.
Part One: Overview of Oilers
Declining revenue from the Oilers primary funding source, loss of some major, traditional sponsors, and ever-increasing operational expenses will cause the Oilers board, Oilers fans, and Oilers supporters to take a hard look at the fiscal viability of the summer baseball program and make some critical decisions about the future of Peninsula Oilers baseball.
Throughout its 41 year history, the Peninsula Oilers Baseball Club has functioned and met expenses through its connection to gaming revenue, with Old Town Bingo; fund raisers, such as the Oilers Gusher, and sponsorships and advertising.
These funding sources in today’s baseball world no longer meet the base operating budget demands of the Oilers operation.
Transportation costs account for the primary drain on the operational budget; with airline ticket prices, baggage fees, change fees, etc; as well as, housing, meals and road expenses for players. Add in operational costs to maintain the Oilers front office, Oilers Main Street building and Coral Seymour Memorial Park; along with local transportation and baseball related expenses and the financial burden can easily exceed the revenue generated.
Oilers Board of Directors President Michael Tice: “The Peninsula Oilers went through a financial difficulty a while back and pretty much drained our savings; and since then we have gone pretty much month-to-month. The biggest reason for that is our fundraising has dwindled, we’ve had some businesses close around here that use to give us a lot of money, that hurt. We rely on at least half of our income to come from our gaming ventures and that money has dwindled in half. Between the two, our income is $100,000 less than it use to be”.
In addition to the basic operating costs, the Peninsula Oilers this past year have been faced with major repair bills as well. With the destruction of the grandstand roof during a May windstorm, the outfield fence was also blown down and needed to be replaced from a winter windstorm, and damage to the roof of the Oilers Main Street building cost the Oilers $40,000 in repairs. Simple fundraisers, raffles and bake sales simple not enough to cover such expenses.
Part Two: Cutting of Expenses and Personnel
With depleted income from traditional sources, the Peninsula Oilers over the past couple of years have been forced through necessity to change their office and field operations in regard to personnel.
Most past, paid positions at the ballpark and positions in-regards-to operations have been filled by board members, volunteers, board members’ family members, and by a general manager in James Clark, who assumed the ” all other duties as needed” role for the Oilers. The Oilers in past years employed field & general maintenance personnel, gate ticket takers, snack shack managers, “Bingo Hilton” cleaners and other positions. Without needed revenue, Oilers volunteers have taken-on some positions, some have gone unfilled, and most were burdened on to James Clark, Oilers general manager. Clark has served as Oilers GM for three seasons fulfilling all baseball operations duties. In addition, Clark has filled the role of field maintenance supervisor (an many times, only worker), general handyman at the park and Oilers Hall, and housekeeping manager at the Bingo Hilton.
Michael Tice: “We have enjoyed having James as our general manager for three years now, and he has done a very good job as general manager. The whole organization is going to miss having him around. It’s a financial decision, we put it off, thought about it last year and didn’t want to do it; didn’t want to admit to ourselves how broke we were. Now the time has come and we have to let him go.”
In addition to all of the other duties, Clark also has housed players and this season saved the Oilers thousands of dollars by housing the coaching staff of the Oilers. Clark has also donated his personal vehicle for the coaches transportation.
The Board of Directors for the Peninsula Oilers will now be tasked with generating revenue. One of the primary expenses for Oilers baseball is transportation.
Michael Tice: “One of our very major expenses that we have is flying the team up here, buying plane tickets for 30 individuals from various parts of the country is very expensive. And then the actual expenses we have to charter a bus, even if we used our own vehicles-no matter what, there’s a pretty significant expense getting the team around the state when they’re here to play the games and play on the road.”
Part Three: Revenue Generation and Community Involvement
Faced with continuing increases in expenses and the need for increased revenue, the Peninsula Oilers Baseball Club will turn its off-season focus to the baseball community of the peninsula, to peninsula business and to the people of the Kenai Peninsula to determine to financial viability of summer baseball on the Kenai.
Part three of Peninsula Sports three-part report on the Peninsula Oilers focuses on the fundraising abilities of the Oilers baseball club.
The Peninsula Oilers program is the third-oldest baseball operation in the Alaska Baseball League, providing summer baseball since 1974. Through 41 years, the Oilers have each season fielded a summer baseball team and provided baseball entertainment for the Alaskan summer. That current hitting streak is in jeopardy.
With budgetary shortfalls, the Oilers are proposing new revenue generating programs.
Oilers Board of Directors President Michael Tice: “What we would like to do is to institute a program where we go out and ask for pledges from any of the major businesses around town. We need to raise a pretty significant amount of money, what we would like to do is ask for pledges-it’s going to be in the range of $100,000, maybe a little less.”
The donation drive is one immediate program for fundraising; additionally, the Oilers are going to need new, continuing, renewable revenue sources. The Oilers gusher and a new combined fundraiser serve to raise immediate funds, but are not a sustainable, guaranteed funding source.
Kasich’s Brewery has joined in the Oilers’ efforts.
Michael Tice: “First coming up in October we’ve got a Pucks & Balls fundraiser, something very similar to what we do with the Oilers Gusher. It’s a joint effort with both us and the Kenai River Brown Bears and Kassick’s Brewery is actually putting on that event. Of course, we will have our Gusher in February like we always have.”
The Oilers primary source for revenue has been gaming through Old Town Bingo, with bingo and pull tabs providing the bulk of the funds for the Oilers operation. The intake of monies through gaming has dramatically decreased, which now forces the Oilers to find new and renewable sources of income.
In baseball terms it’s time for the baseball community to “step up to the plate”.
Many of us love Oilers baseball on a free night or when we get a free hot dog and coke; now is the time for the community to decide is Oilers baseball to survive in the summer baseball league?
New board members are always welcome to the Oilers baseball board and the Oilers Booster Club is always looking to add new members. to help provide services for the players, host families, and for Oilers baseball.
Fundraising ideas are always welcome from the general public; you can always contact the Oilers office at 283-7133 or contact any Oilers board member.
Baseball has an all-encompassing phrase “That’s Baseball”. In the baseball vernacular it’s for situations which can be both good and bad, usual and extraordinary; and many times is attached to a baseball event after the fact when there is no other explanation for it.
Let’s hope Oilers Baseball doesn’t go by the wayside because the community didn’t get involved. Let us not say “That’s Baseball” if the Oilers fail to field a team in 2015.