For a case study in how to alienate a loyal fan base, take a trip to the ghost-town atmosphere prevalent at Fair Grounds Field, home of the soon-to-be defunct Shreveport franchise. Prior to the 2001 season, Mandalay Sports Entertainment (owned by a movie production company not affiliated with the casino conglomerate), bought the team and created discord among local fans by renaming it the Swamp Dragons after 30 years of being known with affection as the Captains. After averaging only 913 fans per game last year, the team barely attracts one-third that total in ’02 (362 through 31 games) and should finish the year as the worst drawing team in minor league baseball. That can be attributed to Mandalay’s announcement that they were moving the franchise to Frisco
, Texas following the 2002 season.
As for the stadium, it looks much more outdated than 16 years and even the pavement in the parking lot has been worn out from the oppressive summer heat. The interstate (I-20) runs parallel to the ballpark, which shares the complex with the Louisiana State Fairgrounds and Independence Bowl, formerly sponsored by Poulan/Weed Eater. Despite the nonexistent crowds, I had to wait 5-10 minutes just to get a drink at the only concession stand open. On the plus side, the souvenir shop is dumping all merchandise and I purchased a couple of old Captains license plates for a quarter each. Also, the tickets (all $5) are printed raffle-style and sold off the circular strips you’d expect for a carnival ride. There is no mention of the game date, time, or opponent on the stub. After holding the Texas League record for most consecutive years of making the playoffs at ten (1986-95), it might be longer than that before Shreveport gets another affiliated minor league team to inhibit the riverboat casino city on the shores of the Red River.
Fair Grounds Field remains in use thanks to the Shreveport-Bossier Captains, a team originally named the Sports when they joined the independent Central League in 2003. My trip to Shreveport in 2002 felt like attending an independent game, so I find it fitting that the ballpark now houses the new Captains, which isn't a knock on independent baseball in general, just the way the business of baseball is run nowadays. If you have an outdated stadium, you'll lose your affiliated team. The same thing happened to Luther Williams Field in Macon.