A pitch for beer

A pitch for beer

Baseball and hot dogs go together at Harry & David Field, so why not wash them down with a cold bottle of beer?

That's a question city officials will address after the Southern Oregon Riverdawgs made a pitch to test out a beer garden in hopes of generating more interest in their ball games at U.S. Cellular Community Park.

The City Council last week granted permission for the collegiate-level team to bring in a concessionaire for nine weekend games this summer to gauge whether mixing beer and baseball is a home run or a foul ball.

"We have concerns about appropriate behavior and alcohol," said Councilman Bob Strosser.

The first game that allowed beer consumption at Harry and David Field was on Saturday.

"It was smooth as silk," said Peter Hunkele, owner of Creekside Pizza in Ashland, which ran the concession stand.

Hunkele said the beer-drinking area was fenced off and had a couple of canopies. Only bottled beer was served. Eventually, if more customers show up, Creekside would offer beer on tap, he said.

Steve Jensen, president of Riverdawgs, said other teams in the region have the benefit of serving beer at games, which brings in more fans and revenue.

"A hot dog and a beer and baseball on a sunny afternoon — that's the way it should be," said Jensen.

He said the Riverdawgs is operating on a bare bone's budget of just over $40,000 this year.

Other teams in the region bring in hundreds of thousands a year because they have more activities and also feature a beer garden, he said.

Jensen said he's not proposing something that hasn't been tried before. He said beer gardens have proved successful elsewhere, but the Riverdawgs have been missing out.

"We need to play on a level playing field." Jensen said.

He said the Humboldt Crabs, a team in Arcata, Calif., is a big draw for the community, generating more than $1 million in revenue for hotels, restaurants and other businesses in the city. Also, more than 1,500 people show up on a given night, Jensen said.

The Riverdawgs typically see about 200 to 300 fans at a game, he said.

Because the Crabs generate more operating revenue, the California team pays the Riverdawgs to travel to Arcata for games.

More revenue allows for more advertising and more activities to generate local interest in the club, he said.

For that reason, Jensen said, he's scheduling 29 home games this year compared with 21 or 22 in previous years.

Games scheduled for 7 p.m. on July 1 and 2 will feature a beer garden.

Rich Rosenthal, recreation superintendent for Medford Parks and Recreation, said it will be up to the City Council to change the ordinance to allow serving beer in city parks without a special permit. Currently, permits are granted only for limited days.

Rosenthal said the city will closely watch to see if there are any disturbances or police calls during the games in which beer is served this summer.

If an ordinance is crafted, the city would have a designated area for consuming beer, Rosenthal said. In addition, spectators at the events would be screened to ensure they're not bringing alcohol and to make sure underage fans don't drink. Tailgating parties involving alcohol would not be allowed, he said.

In the past, special permits for beer consumption have been granted to only a few events, such as Cycle Oregon at Fichter Mainwaring in 2009, and two fundraising events at Santo Community Center last October.

In years past, beer was sold at minor league baseball games at the former Miles Field, but that field was owned by Jackson County.

Rosenthal said the Riverdawgs want to try different avenues to increase revenues and get more fans in the seats.

In addition, Rosenthal said, other types of events could allow beer consumption in a designated area.

"It would make sense during adult softball games," he said. "People want a ballpark-type atmosphere, and that means beer."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or e-mail

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