The baseball market in our area is large and growing. From peewee leagues to adult softball to serious high school team members, North Dakota residents love baseball. However, outside of organized teams, there are few places where local residents can go to hone their skills, and even fewer facilities for training during the off-season. Barney's Bullpen will fill this niche.
High School Baseball/Softball Teams: These teams need indoor practice space since their seasons start in late February. Most of the high school programs now start at the beginning of the school year, and most of the players participate in fall leagues that last until the end of October. Practice is limited to school gyms during the winter months.
Youth Leagues will be the mainstay of this business.
Adult Softball Leagues: These leagues consist of men, women, and co-ed divisions. These leagues play almost year round combined with tournaments and league play. We expect to draw mostly from the competitive divisions.
Other potential customers are the youth groups at local churches and team building events for area businesses.
We will focus on the Classic or Select baseball players and high school players to start. Although we will make a profit with these customers, we will expand our focus to include all areas of baseball and softball as the facility will allow. By focusing on the classic player, we can maximize the advantages of our indoor facility, by catering to their desire to keep up and improve their skills all year. However, the high school and collegiate teams will provide a stable repeat customer base.
Parents are looking to give their children an advantage over other children in organized sports activities. Group coaching is simply not enough to give children the proper skills required to play at an above average level in baseball and softball. Private coaches and skill trainers are fully booked by eager parents looking for one-on-one training for their child. "Select" baseball and softball leagues are increasing in popularity and advanced skills training is an absolute requirement for participants in these activities. This indoor facility will cater to the increasing need for individualized skills training on a year-round basis.
Barney's Bullpen is a service oriented business; it also has tendencies of a entertainment business. Some of the customers will be looking for a place to go for an evening's entertainment or even stress relief, while others will be looking for a facility to train seriously. Players, parents, and coaches have comfort zones that can be difficult to work with at times. One of the challenges for the staff at Barney's Bullpen is to be alert to the varied needs of the customers.
Leagues need places to conduct meetings during the off season, coaches want access to a variety of facilities at a moment's notice, and parents want private lessons for their children. Other areas that may need to be evaluated are theme events for church or business groups, dedicated time slots to local professional athletes, or sponsor a tournament.
Because batting cage facilities can host so many different kinds of customers, and fulfill so many different market needs, the most important initial step for many is deciding on a focus and following through with appropriate advertising, hours of operation, and customer service. Having distinct nights or sections of the facility set aside for different age groups or interests will prevent skilled players from getting frustrated waiting for amateurs to finish "playing," while keeping customers who are just out for fun from feeling condescended to by more serious players or employees.
The current direct competition for this business is an outdoor-only facility in City F that has 6 hitting lanes. The only indoor facility with comparable services is 20 to 40 miles away, depending on what part of the service area customers come from. While competition is limited, we must still work hard at providing convenient hours of operation, quality service, and fair prices to grow the business and encourage repeat customers.
Our location is a key competitive edge - we are located only 1 mile south of the high school and is 1 block off a major intersection, making us easily accessible to high schoolers and parents dropping off or picking up children. In addition, this facility is 2 blocks from 40 acres of vacant land owned by the City. The city officials are investigating the possibility of building a 12 field baseball/softball complex at this location. This would bring thousands of players to the city on a yearly basis for week-long tournaments.
We are, of course, also competing with after-school programs, other athletic events and team activities, and other unrelated entertainment choices. The choice for committed baseball fans and players will be easy, but our challenge is to convince children, their parents, and other local residents that Barney's Bullpen is the best way they could spend an evening or afternoon. We are more healthy (and more fun) than watching TV or going to a movie; for a large family, we are more affordable than going to a movie or a mini-golf range, since rates are per lane, not per player; we are more convenient than driving to City F.
Our success depends on establishing a loyal repeat clientele who bring their families, friends, colleagues and peers to Barney's Bullpen. Our website will help get the word out, but monetary sponsorship for the local leagues and word-of-mouth will be more relevant to local residents, who expect local businesses to be involved in community life.