New Baseball Team Equals Home Run For Terre Haute Economy

As many communities are struggling to climb out of the recession, Terre Haute’s economy is getting a little boost from its new baseball team.

  • Rex pitcher mid-throw at a game

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    Photo: Arianna Prothero/WFIU

    Even though the Terre Haute Rex franchise has exceeded expectations in terms of revenue, officials say they are still working hard to cultivate fans and keep them coming to games.

  • Rex player prepares to swing at batting practice.

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    Photo: Arianna Prothero

    Batting practice before a game against the Danville Dans.

  • Three Rex players are taking a break in the dugout during practice.

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    Photo: Arianna Prothero/WFIU

    Rex players take a break in the dugout during practice.

  • A base ball laying on the ground during batting practice.

    Image 4 of 12

    Photo: Arianna Prothero/WFIU

    A baseball laying on the ground during batting practice.

  • Rex Pitcher Alex Sachs mid-throw during an evening game against the Danville Dans.

    Image 5 of 12

    Photo: Arianna Prothero/WFIU

    Rex Pitcher Alex Sachs mid-throw during an evening game against the Danville Dans.

  • A catcher for the Terre Haute Rex waits for a pitch.

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    Photo: Arianna Prothero/WFIU

    A catcher for the Terre Haute Rex.

  • Rex fans compete in an air guitar contest between innings.

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    Photo: Arianna Prothero/WFIU

    Rex fans compete in an air guitar contest between innings.

  • Terre Haute Rex fans fill the stands at a game against the Danville Dans.

    Image 8 of 12

    Photo: Arianna Prothero/WFIU

    Terre Haute Rex fans fill the stands at a game against the Danville Dans.

  • A crowd of Rex fans watches the team at bat.

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    Photo: Arianna Prothero/WFIU

    A crowd of Rex fans watches the team at bat.

  • A ball gets past a rex player at bat and sails into the catcher's mitt.

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    Photo: Arianna Prothero/WFIU

    Terre Haute Rex at bat.

  • Rex players come out onto the field to congratulate a teammate for getting a home run.

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    Photo: Arianna Prothero/WFIU

    Rex players come out onto the field to congratulate a teammate for getting a home run.

  • The newly remodeled and renamed Bob Warn Stadium at night at the end of the game.

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    Photo: Arianna Prothero/WFIU

    The newly remodeled and renamed Bob Warn Stadium, home of the Rex.

As many communities are struggling to climb out of the recession, Terre Haute’s economy is getting a little boost from its new baseball team.  It’s a clear evening in Terre Haute and the 7 p.m. sun slants into the ballpark casting long shadows.    Fans sporting hats and jerseys of Terre Haute’s new baseball team, the Rex, fill the revamped and renamed Bob Warn Stadium.  It is a scene full of hope – the college-age ballplayers in the Prospect League use wooden bats like their major league idols and team officials beam as newly minted Rex fans like Mark Daedy enjoy take in a ballgame with their families.

“Well we’ve got two kids, one with a hamburger and a Rex hat on, the other one’s got a Rex shirt on, eating a hot dog with Skittles, and I got a beer and a hot dog and a Rex hat,” Daedy said.  “And my other son who’s up in the stands has a Rex- they’ve all got Rex hats and jerseys.  We’ve been t o about 8 games, 9 games.”

Now think about that attendance in terms of economic development: $3 for each hamburger, $4 for a pair of ho t dogs, $3 for a king-sized candy, and $5 per beer, plus admission to the park — $5 for an adult and $1 for a child.  Daedy said it is a good deal compared to other kinds of family entertainment, but over the course of a season, the concessions add up.  Rex General Manager Roland Shelton said it is that affordability he hopes continues to draw people to games, especially with many prospective fans of the Prospect League tightening their belts during the recession.

“In terms of tourism dollars, we average about 700 to 800 people a game,” Shelton said.  “And that geographical range of those customers are not just in Vigo County but also outside Vigo County.”

Bringing more people to the area is exactly what Terre Haute Economic Development Corporation Director Steve Witt said the city needs.

“Any draw you have to a community is going to expose other assets of the community to folks coming to visit,” Witt said.  “So someone you may be in town for a game may drive by and say, ‘Hey, there’s the new Terre Haute Children’s Museum and we need to make a return trip and come and check that out.’”

Although so far the team is successfully drawing crowds, Witt says the challenge will be sustaining that momentum.  Even though the franchise has exceeded expectations in terms of revenue, Shelton said he’s still working hard to cultivate fans and keep them coming to games.  No person and no ticket price are too small and Shelton tries to take a personal interest in reaching out to individuals.  For example: after finding out a mother and her ten-year-old son had driven three hours to attend a game, Shelton gave the son a tour of the locker room and dugout and introduced him to the players.  Since then, the pair has come back to Terre Haute three more times.  Rex Head Coach Brian Dorsett said those efforts are paying off.

“The fans in general are just really happy,” Dorsett said.  “They feel like Terre Haute is progressing and that something good is happening.  I think once the community at large gets more involved and sees the benefit I think we’ll see more cities really gravitating towards going after franchises because it’s a business too from the owner’s side of the equation- they have to make it successful.”

Shelton said the team is benefiting from some otherwise unfortunate sports news for the city.  The Rex started playing just when Indianapolis Colts announced they were moving their summer training camp out of Terre Haute, leaving the young ballplayers to fill some of the void left by the departed football team.  Sure enough, fans are turning up in all shapes and sizes sporting Rex merchandise.   And of course, that team spirit translates into dollars.

Arianna Prothero

Arianna Prothero started at WFIU as a reporter in May of 2008. She is now the Interim Assistant Radio News Director and, along with her reporting duties, produces WFIU’s Noon Edition and anchors All Things Considered on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Arianna holds her bachelor’s degree from Indiana University in Political Science with a minor in Russian and Eastern European Studies.

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