Tag Archives: Entertainment

Rosselli sees Terre Haute Rex as community asset

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

The Terre Haute Rex have been on the summer collegiate wood bat baseball scene since 2010.
Terre Haute native Bruce Rosselli was there at the start.
A 1976 North Vigo High School graduate and former Indiana State University track and field decathlete who went on to spend 17 years as an elite bobsled driver (he is a three-time national champion, two-time world champion and a winner in the Europa Cup and Americas Cup), was a volunteer assistant speed and strength coach for the Rex.
He attended home games and put players through workouts at Union Hospital.
“I worked on their speed and their psyche,” says Rosselli. “I took some of the things I learned from driving a bobsled like positive thinking and mental imagery. I had to slow everything down and learn to push away negativity.
“I was teaching pitchers how to be confident on the mound and control the tempo of the game.”
The Rex (which takes their name from a coffee brand established in 1879) was originally owned by the Indiana State University Foundation.
In December 2013, Rosselli and partners — Brian Dorsett (field manager 2010-12), Bob Brown, John Newton, Ray Kepner and Kevin Hoolehan — bought the team.
General manager Rosselli and Dorsett are principal owners of the Rex. Newton later stepped down, leaving the others as the current ownership group.
Rosselli’s position is full-time and does everything from marketing to recruiting players.
He sees the Rex as an asset to the community.
In 2014, Rosselli and company had their first season with the Rex and a survey found that 63 percent of fans who exit a baseball stadium don’t know who won or lost the game.
“They just know they had a good time,” says Rosselli. “That’s who we market to. The 37 percent are always going to be there. How do we get the 63 percent back every time?
“It’s entertainment.”
The Rex markets to a 40- to 50-mile radius of Terre Haute. The Wabash Valley represents about 500,000 people.
Rosselli wants them to consider coming to ISU’s Bob Warn Field when they come to town to dine or go to Terre Haute Children’s Museum.
“We have between-inning games with kids running and racing and dizzy bat,” says Rosselli. “The baseball game itself is secondary.
“We’re putting on this big show.”
Community members and sponsors are recognized. Low-cost, high-quality concessions is a priority.
“We don’t want people coming here saying that food is no good so we’re going to eat somewhere else before (the game),” says Rosselli. “We bring $1.5 million to $2.1 million (annually) to the local economy every summer.”
Stores, retail shops, gas stations, hotels and restaurants all benefit from having the Rex in Terre Haute.
“Every $1 turns over seven times,” says Rosselli.
Rosselli says some companies that partner with the team are looking for Return On Investment (ROI) and others do it as a service to the community.
“They’re helping us provide entertainment for all of the Wabash Valley,” says Rosselli. “We couldn’t do it without them.”
On the baseball side of things, Rosselli hires a manager to assemble a team of players from around the country. In 2023, it will be Harry Markotay.
“We do want to have competitive play,” says Rosselli. “Since we’ve owned the team we’ve only had one year where we didn’t have a very good season.”
The Rex went 37-23 in the Prospect League 2022. Terre Haute won Prospect League titles in 2015 (managed by Bobby Segal) and 2018 (managed by Tyler Wampler).
Rosselli begins making recruiting calls as soon as the season is over. All position players on a roster of around 30 are committed and the focus for 2023 is to get more pitchers.
Players stay with host families — some who’ve been with the Rex since Day 1.
“They love having that experience with a player in their home,” says Rosselli. “They can go out there and root for them every game, know their name and their parents’ names.
“It’s a friend for life.”
Bruce and wife Cheryl Rosselli (a former world table tennis champion) have two children — Paige and Tony.
Paige Rosselli (North Vigo Class of 2008) is a former Rex intern. Tony Rosselli (North Vigo Class of 2012) played a Indiana State University and with the Rex. He has had host families as a college and independent pro player.
There are many moving parts and a short window between the end of the Indiana State season and the beginning for the Rex. Tractor trailers bring in trash cans. Beverage sales and souvenir sales must be set up. Up to 60 banners stored in Rosselli’s office across Third Street are put up around the ballpark.
“We saw the stadium come alive,” says Rosselli.
The Rex partners with ISU for Sport Management and Marketing students to do internships with the team. There’s also the opportunity work with the media company who broadcasts the games.
“I want to see players go to the next level, but it’s also just as gratifying seeing our interns going to the next level,” says Rosselli. “Every year I say, ‘how do we make our team better and how do we make our staff better?’ One doesn’t run without the other.
“There’s two teams here.”
The owner/GM encourages interns to sit in with him on sponsorship meetings. They also get to rotate through different jobs such as ticket sales, retail and press box operations. They see the coordination between the PA announcer and on-field announcer.
“It’s like an orchestra going on,” says Rosselli.
Many Rex interns have gone on to serve in professional or college sports positions and not just in baseball.
Austin Bishop went from the Rex to the NBA’s Detroit Pistons to the University of Illinois and is now Assistant Manager of Athletic Ticketing at ISU.
Chris Poindexter was Communications Assistant and Intern Supervisor for the Rex and went on to become Video Production and Social Media Manager with the Bowling Green Hot Rods, High-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.
“I didn’t get where I’m at without help,” says Rosselli. “So it’s sort of paying it forward. I can help somebody else do that they want to do.”
Beginning in 2016, Rosselli was president of the Prospect League for five years.
In that role, he dealt with disciplinary matters and led league meetings. He brought in an outside contractor to provide certified NCAA umpires and found vendors for league uniforms and baseballs.
“I always thought in order for this league to grow we should all look to be in the black (at the end of the fiscal year) and not some teams in the red,” says Rosselli. “That was more of an attraction to outside investors.
“Lowering the operational costs would help us all.”
The Prospect League — with David Brauer as commissioner — will field 17 teams in seven states in 2023. Opening Day for a 58-game slate is to begin May 31.
Additions include the Jackson (Tenn.) Rockabillys and an as-yet-to-be-branded club in Marion, Ill., once a member of the independent professional Frontier League. Finalists for the Marion team name include Angry Beavers, Fungi, Monkey Rats, Swamp Foxes and Thrillbillies.
For the better part 10 years, Rosselli has been working to get a new stadium for the Rex — something similar to Kokomo (Ind.) Municipal Stadium.
Rosselli said Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett was in favor, but the Terre Haute Convention Center came first.
Rosselli says he would like to see a multi-sport complex on the east side of town. Add to that housing and retail spaces.
“It’s about a $75 million project,” says Rosselli. “You’ve got to have a lot of ground — at least 150 acres.
“I don’t want to be part of something done halfway. Let’s do it right. We’ve got to be able to grow it.”
In August 2022, the Vigo County Capital Improvement Board approved the start of a process for a feasibility study for a sports and water complex.
In November 2022, the CIB approved Brownsburg-based PROS Consulting Inc., to conduct that study.

Bruce Rosselli.

Two years into new Loeb Stadium, Lafayette Aviators continue to enjoy community entertainment niche

BY STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A baseball and entertainment destination can be found in Lafayette, Ind.
The Lafayette Aviators came off the runway in 2016 at the old Loeb Stadium (which made its debut in 1940).
In 2021, a new Loeb Stadium was unveiled on the same site (Wallace Avenue and Main Street) next to Columbian Park Zoo and Tropincanoe Cove water park.
Only this time the field that the Aviators and Lafayette Jefferson High School baseball and soccer call home was flipped to face the other way and had a turf field and was more fan-friendly with its amenities.
David Krakower is Aviators general manager. His career stops include those in Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, independent pro baseball as well at the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, United Soccer League and on the business side with ESPN for college football.
Krakower took the time to talk about the Aviators as the franchise wraps up the second season in the new park in 2022.
“When I moved here in October 2020 it took me all of five minutes to know that between August and May Purdue runs this town and the Greater Lafayette area and that’s great,” says Krakower. “We wanted to carve out a niche. We can own this town from May to August when nothing’s going on at Purdue. So you make tickets affordable. There’s no charge for parking. You keep concessions and merchandise as reasonable as you can. A family of four can come out without spending a ton of money.”
Since the Aviators play in the wood bat summer collegiate Prospect League, players are not paid. That makes a difference in budgeting and operating expenses versus a professional team.
While the Aviators season is short (June 1-Aug. 6 for the regular season), there is a large local impact.
“The biggest thing I’ve noticed is the sense of community here,” says Krakower. “The fans know that they have such a limited window with these players. We’ve got two and a half months over the summer and then they’re back to college. (Fans) development an instantaneous connection to them.
“And then they watch them grow as they continue their collegiate careers or eventually get drafted and move on.”
Just this week, Krakower took a call from a former host family letting him know the latest on a player that stayed with them five years ago.
“There is a definite sense of community here — unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been,” says Krakower. “A part of that is they get attached to the Aviators and the brand.
“It doesn’t seem to matter what players we bring in, they fans seem to have an attachment to the name on the front of the jersey.”
As an example, Krakow points out that the 2021 Aviators set a record for most regular-season wins (41) and came within four outs of a league title while drawing 40,985 fans to city-owned Loeb. The biggest crowd was 2,049.
“It was as magical a season as we could have had without winning the championship,” says Krakower.
With two home dates remaining in 2022, the team has brought in 40,762 spectators and the club is 24-32 overall. The biggest house has been 2,193. There were 257 season ticket holders.
The Aviators have promotions and on-field activities going on at each home game. One of the most-popular dates of the season is when the team hosts a street fair with food trucks, player autographs and live music in June.
The team also wears specialty jerseys that fans can bid on like the colorful tops worn on Mexican Heritage Day or Wizardry Night. There are giveaway nights with plenty of Aviators swag — jerseys, caps and baseballs.
Ace The Aviator is a popular mustachioed mascot.
This week, there was a Lafayette Police Department National Night Out.
Ticket packages are sometimes tied in with the zoo or the water park.
The Prospect League allows 32 players per roster with a maximum of four from a particular school. With pitchers reaching innings limits, injuries or players shutting down early to get ready to ready to their university, there can be as many as 60 players who don the colors in Lafayette each summer.
Krakower, who maintains relationships with college coaches all over the country, has already began the process of recruiting for the 2023 season. If he has players on the team that he likes that have remaining college eligibility he will invite them to come back.
The Aviators have four full-time employees plus three or four interns in the spring and summer. On game days, there are 60 to 70 people in seasonal jobs. Some have been with the team since its inaugural season of 2016.
“I think we’ve got about 80 percent of our staff or seasonal staff from last year back this year because they love working at the new park,” says Krakower.
The Aviators are to host games Thursday (Aug. 4) vs. Terre Haute and Saturday (Aug. 6) vs. Illinois Valley. Saturday is Fan Appreciation Day. First pitch for both contests is slated for 7 p.m.

Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators general manager David Krakower. (Steve Krah Photo)
A shirt in the Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators gift shop. (Steve Krah Photo)
Loeb Stadium in Lafayette, Ind., during Lafayette Police Department National Night Out. (Steve Krah Photo)
The Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators play the Chillicothe (Ohio) Paints Tuesday, Aug. 2 at Loeb Stadium in Lafayette. (Steve Krah Photo)
Selections in the Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators gift shop. (Steve Krah Photo)
The Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators play the Chillicothe (Ohio) Paints Tuesday, Aug. 2 at Loeb Stadium in Lafayette. (Steve Krah Photo)
The Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators play the Chillicothe (Ohio) Paints Tuesday, Aug. 2 at Loeb Stadium in Lafayette. (Steve Krah Photo)
The Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators summer collegiate baseball team first took flight in 2016. (Steve Krah Photo)