Downtown, meet baseball

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Fluor Field. Greg Beckner / Staff Fluor Field. Greg Beckner / Staff

New event aims to bring Main Street to the diamond

Boosters of downtown and baseball in Greenville want to emulate, minus a 26-mile-foot race, a Boston event that has brought together the Boston Marathon, the Red Sox and Fenway Park in a celebration of the city since 1903.

That's the nub of the idea for Drive Business Downtown, a promotion uniting downtown, Fluor Field and the Greenville Drive, a Red Sox affiliate, for baseball and business centered around a specially scheduled day game on Tuesday, May 3.

davismugWanting to give thanks for the "high level of excitement and enthusiasm about downtown business," Rick Davis, managing shareholder of Elliott Davis, and Craig D. Brown, co-owner and president of the Drive, came together to plan the event.

It will be networking writ large.

At the game, business people will participate in honorary roles as team captains, ball boys, scorekeepers and announcers and compete, and company teams will compete between innings in stunts and games.

Companies are encouraged to use the day at the ballpark to show appreciation for employees and customers, recruit talent and entertain prospective clients.

Based on responses from an initial mailing to 300 businesses asking them to participate, Brown and Davis anticipate the event "will be one of the premier networking opportunities of the year."

"They enthusiastically embraced it as a good thing for downtown Greenville," said Davis. "No money is required of them. What do they get? They get what everybody else gets - a high level of excitement and enthusiasm about downtown business. We'll make a big deal about what a great place it is for downtown business."

They are hoping to make Drive Business Downtown an annual affair, much, said Brown, the way Boston comes together every third Monday in April for the marathon and a Red Sox game at Fenway timed so runners at the end of the race and fans at the end of the game "end up celebrating Boston together."

To participate, companies are asked to buy tickets for the game, which will pit the Drive and the Asheville Tourists.

The 100-ticket "Home Run" package costs $1,000, a 200-seat "Grand Slam" $2,000. Companies buying those packages get reserved group seating, public address recognition and $5 tokens for each ticket redeemable for concessions that day. Individual tickets can be purchased from the Drive's sales office.

Fluor Field has seats for 5,800, plus ground seating along the left-field line.

brownmugBrown sees the promotion as more a way to deepen the Drive's relationship with the city and its fans and to boost downtown as a business location than to build attendance. Too, he said, it recognizes the role Fluor Field and the Drive play in helping stimulate development, particularly in the West End.

"We don't want to take our downtown for granted," said Brown. "We want this downtown to be unique five years from now, 20 years from now. Part of the way we can do that is by continually putting the spotlight on it and being thankful for what we have."

Davis said the idea to link the Drive and the city's downtown vitality came from the accounting company's own experience of having moved from Pleasantburg Road eight years ago to its building on Broad Street.

"As we stood back and looked at what we had gained from being in downtown in terms of new business, in terms of visibility, in term of recruiting good people, in terms of retaining good people, we said downtown is a great place for business," he said.

As corporate organizer, Davis said "not a lot of money is involved. There is a lot of work. We are looking at this as a contribution of resources, primarily of time and people, so we can bring this together for the overall good of Greenville."

Except for a day game June 28, the Drive Business Downtown game is the only weekday day game on the Drive's schedule.

Brown said the 2 p.m. start was chosen to encourage people to come downtown early to stroll and shop, "have a great time at the game and linger in downtown after the game." Davis and Brown said bars, restaurants and retail stores are encouraged to participate with special promotions.

The Drive opens its single-A season April 7 at home in a night game against the Augusta Greenjackets.