Despite the fact that most of the ML West champion Arizona Diamondbacks' players were home grown, few fans in the Phoenix/Tucson area made the trek to Tucson Electric Park to watch the defending 2006 PCL champion Sidewinders play this season. Only 270,853 to be precise - the worst attendance figure in the Pacific Coast League.
SK Baseball LLC, the corporation that now owns the Sidewinders and is headed by Stuart Katzoff, believes that a move to Reno will help bolster these inexplicably poor attendance figures.
"There's no sports competition there, and the city is growing fast," Katzoff explained. "There are big sports fans there, and they are behind it 100 percent."
The population of Reno has grown to roughly 214,000, with the outlying areas - including Carson City, the nearby Nevada state capital, bumping up the area population to over 650,000.
No amount of success could woo fans to watch the team in Tucson in part because they could watch the parent club just a few hours drive away. The Sidewinders - or whatever they will soon be called - will actually play closer to Visalia and Yakima, two of the Diamondbacks' Single-A affiliates, than they will to their old home in Tucson.
Although Reno resides in the desert as much as Tucson does, the ownership group does indeed plan to change the team nickname to something more unique to Reno before the 2009 season.
"We're planning on getting the community involved somehow," Katzoff said. "We have to come up with a good name and logo."
The other Nevada-based team in the PCL is called the Las Vegas 51s, named after Area 51, the supposed UFO landing site 80 miles north of Vegas. It will no doubt be tempting for fans in Reno to make some kind of reference to the legalized casino gambling that Reno is famous for.
The Reno Casinos? The Reno Slots? The Reno 21s? Whatever they are called, the Diamondbacks' Triple-A affiliate should enjoy a much deserved attendance boost over the next few seasons. With all of the star prospects matriculating through the organization every year, Reno is going to enjoy some well-played ballgames.
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