WHO: Columbia Fireflies inaugural season opening night
WHERE: Spirit Communications Park
WHEN: Home opener Thursday, April 14
Columbia’s famously hot summers bring a lot of things – some good, some bad, and even some natural phenomena.
Take, for example, the fireflies that congregate at the Congaree River. This annual summer event is how the metro area’s newest minor league baseball team, the Columbia Fireflies, got its name.
“We held a name-the-team contest and got over 1,500 name submissions and six people chose Fireflies,” said Abby Naas, vice president of marketing and public relations. “At Congaree National Park, the fireflies come together and synchronize their glow. It’s only about one of six places in the world that this happens and it’s incredible. It also fits really well into the way that the Columbia community works. The community rallied together and helped their neighbors during the flood. Everyone unified and synchronized, so fireflies are a great metaphor for the Columbia community.”
The Columbia Fireflies are owned by Hardball Capital and are the South Atlantic League affiliate of the New York Mets. They decided to bring the team to Columbia because as it stood, we were the largest market in the United States without a professional sports franchise. It’s been more than 10 years since the Capital City Bombers relocated to Greenville. The closest thing we had is the Lexington Blowfish, “a collegiate wood bat league team,” but the Fireflies are a professional low-A team, with 70 home games and 140 games all season. The season starts in April and finishes around Labor Day.
To prepare fans for the inaugural season, Naas and her team are pulling out all the stops to get you to the ballfield at Spirit Communications Park.
“We view each of our home games as a separate event,” said Naas. “A lot of planning goes into them just to make sure every game you come to, you have a different experience.”
You can expect day-of-the-week promotions like “Military Mondays,” “Two Dollar Tuesdays” and “Thirsty Thursdays,” along with national acts performing Friday night and themes on Saturdays. Season tickets went on sale back when the team’s name was announced in August, and individual tickets went on sale in February. Sales have gone well so far for the new 7,500-seat stadium that can hold as many as 10,000 spectators, Naas said.
Naas said the team has partnered with local breweries like River Rat to provide local suds, and there is a head chef who runs their in-house food needs. But the chef will do more than just man a large grill of burgers and franks. Aside from the 70 Fireflies home games, Naas plans to keep the outdoor venue busy all year. And with an indoor event space of almost 7,000 square feet, the park was built to meet a multitude of needs.
“It could be a concert, soccer or football game, wedding reception, luncheon, breakfast … pretty much anything you would rent space for we could use the ballpark for,” Naas said. “We’ll do beer tastings and women’s night out events like wine tastings. So we try to cater to all the demographics and make something for everybody.”
Right now, the building is getting its final touches in preparation for the Columbia Fireflies debut.
“We’ve got a lot of things set up,” Naas said. “With it being the first game, we’re going to try to make it a real once-in-a-lifetime experience for the whole community. You don’t even necessarily have to like baseball. We have so many other things going on that it’s really just an entertaining thing to do. We’ve got 16 inning breaks to do something crazy.”
THE VIBE: So far, the idea of the Fireflies seems like another fun thing for Columbia’s spring and summer roster. Whether you go solo or make it a date night or family night, it sounds as if the promise to be entertained will be fulfilled, even if you’re not that into baseball.
THE VERDICT: Most people, when asked, are excited about the team coming to town, and why wouldn’t they be? It’s been a long hiatus without minor league baseball here, and it’s time, as they say, for Columbia to get back in the game. Let’s get ready to play some ball!
Sampling of promotions
Military Mondays: Everyone with a military ID gets $2 off a reserved or all-star seat
Two-Dollar Tuesdays: $2 hot dogs, $2 popcorn and $2 soda. Great family night.
Thirsty Thursday: Half-price draft beers and half-priced sodas. Great night for young professionals and college students.
Friday: National entertainment and fireworks
Saturday: Theme night. Think “Star Wars,” Christmas in July, Halfway to Halloween, 90s Night and more. Plus, look for fireworks.
Sunday: Splash days. Prepare to get a little wet!