Hawks President Todd Rahr knows minor league baseball requires its own mad science. And the club has cooked up its own experiment this season.
Long plagued by a setting sun that broils fans in the first-base metal stands, the Hawks have a potential solution — a 30-foot blimp.
The Hawks will float the blimp between home plate and the third-base stands in an attempt to create shade for fans along the first-base line. Ropes will tie it to the ground with a pulley system, allowing the club to lower the blimp as the sun sets.
“It’s not one of those things where we’re promising every person who sits in the first-base section that you’re going to have some shade,” Rahr said. “We couldn’t do that. But this is our attempt to try to start solving that problem.”
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Shipping delays have pushed back the blimp’s inaugural flight to possibly Friday, but the Hawks still hope it arrives in time for Opening Day, when Boise takes on the Tri-City Dust Devils at 7:15 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Stadium.
The setting sun has annoyed fans along the first-base line since the stadium opened in 1989. The heat has become such a well-known problem that Rahr said he’s watched fans approach the ticket booth, learn only first-base seats are available, then turn around and go home.
Jeff Eiseman, the president of Agon Sports & Entertainment, the Hawks’ new owner, attended a game last June and sat in the first-base bleachers to see what the fuss was about. After a scorching day on the metal bleachers, he put in a call to the architects designing a new stadium for the Augusta GreenJackets, Agon’s other team, searching for what he calls “a $10 solution.”
His architects slept on the idea before coming back with an idea for a blimp. Eiseman knows it might not work, but he said it’s worth a shot.
“If it’s a colossal failure, it’s a colossal failure,” he said. “But at least we tried something. This park has been here for 30 years and nobody has done anything about it. Now, maybe nobody did anything about it because they’re all smarter than us and realized they couldn’t. But we’re at least trying.”
The club contemplated a permanent structure along Glenwood Street to create shade. But Rahr said construction of a permanent structure would require Memorial Stadium to come up to code with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a cost he said the team can’t afford.
Rahr said the Hawks tried to sell ads to place on the side of blimp, but were unsuccessful before the season. The green blimp with a Hawks logo will instead read, “Game tonight,” and the club plans to deflate it when the team goes on the road.
Eiseman said if the blimp works, it’ll cost the club between $15,000 to $20,000, with most of the cost coming from the helium to fill the blimp, which has to be added each night. If it doesn’t work, the team can float up a 30-foot marker that it has a home game that night.
Rahr said he’s already heard all the jokes about the blimp and what can possibly go wrong. For the record, helium is not flammable. The infamous Hindenburg blimp was filled with hydrogen.
“We’ve already heard if it pops, ‘Oh, the humanity’ jokes and all that stuff,” Rahr said. “And playing Led Zeppelin while it goes down. We’ll deal with that if it happens.
“It’ll be fun. That’s what minor league baseball is all about — coming up with creative, fun things to do. This is about as wacky as I’ve ever heard.”