The Dragons’ 2020 season was canceled due to the pandemic. The team’s record consecutive sell-out streak had continued through the 2019 season, standing at 1,385 after the final regular season home game Sept. 2.
Palisades Arcadia Baseball LLC, owner of the Dragons, received $395,000 in CARES Act grants from the city of Dayton and Montgomery County last week. The grants will be coupled with federal loans through the Paycheck Protection Program and Main Street Lending to help the club pay for unexpected expenses and provide more protective measures for fans, employees and volunteers throughout Day Air Ballpark, Murphy said.
“We have now through our financing created a bridge that’s going to take us from September 2019 all the way to April 21, 2021,” he said.
Dayton City Commission on Wednesday approved $300,000 in CARES Act funds for the team, a single-A minor-league affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. Montgomery County commissioners approved $95,000 in county CARES Act funds for the team to “assist in the costs of business interruption,” according to a resolution submitted as a late agenda item and passed last Tuesday.
The city’s grant to the Dragons fell under a cultural support program. The county’s resolution indicated the funds will be spent to purchase “extensive personal protective equipment to ensure the health and safety of the community, the facility, and for the operations.”
U.S. Department of Treasury records show Palisades Arcadia Baseball LLC received a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan for between $350,000 and $1 million on April 29.
Palisades Arcadia Baseball LLC purchased the team in August 2014 from Mandalay Baseball Properties.
Murphy said the team projected it needed between $1 million to $1.3 million to adjust operations in the face of the pandemic. He declined to say how much the team requested in federal loans.
“It was a perfect storm for the Dayton Dragons,” he said. “We used most of our cash on hand in the fourth quarter of 2019 and in the first quarter of 2020 to prepare for the season.”
Though presuming play will resume in spring, it remains unclear exactly when the Dragons will next take the field, Murphy said.
“Major League Baseball has not signaled to us what their timeframe is going to be for their return to play,” he said. “When they know and decide, then we will know and be able to make decisions based on that.”
But when the team’s fans, employees and volunteers who work concessions do return, there will be plenty of pandemic-related changes at the ballpark paid for with CARES Act dollars and federal pandemic assistance loans, according to Murphy.
Fixtures in restroom and kitchen areas are being replaced with touchless models.
The organization is using CARES Act funding to help install a new WiFi system that will support touchless ticketing, a project the team is currently working on with Ticketmaster.
“We’ve had this on our whiteboard probably the last two years trying to figure out when is the time going to be right for us to do this,” Murphy said.
The system will also help run a new touchless point of sale system, which is not supported by CARES Act funding, according to Murphy.
The screens will be installed at all points of sale to protect workers and guests.
Signage, personal protective equipment:
Signs as well as videos will convey current safety guidance, including restroom occupancy limits. Hands-free sanitizing stations will be placed throughout the ballpark. Stanchions will help define walking patterns within the stadium.
It’s too early to know how many fans will be allowed in to see games, but the Dragons are working on multiple plans, Murphy said.
“You almost have to be prepared for anything,” he said.
In January, the Dayton Dragons announced a 10-year deal with Day Air Credit Union for naming rights to the downtown stadium, which was renamed Day Air Ballpark.
Despite missing a season, the season ticket renewal rate this year has exceeded the rate coming out of 2019, Murphy said.
In addition to season ticket holders, Murphy said corporate sponsors “have been fantastic in understanding what this predicament is.”
“We have been a major impact on this community and they want to make sure we continue to do so long into the future,” he said.