Dave Heller's Bio
Dave Heller is the president and CEO of Main Street Baseball, LLC, and the Managing Partner of three affiliated minor league baseball teams: the Quad Cities River Bandits (Midwest League, Single-A affiliate of the Houston Astros), the High Desert Mavericks (California League, Advanced-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers) and, most recently, the Billings Mustangs (Pioneer League, short-season affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds). Heller is also the new majority owner of a fourth team, the Wilmington Blue Rocks (Carolina League, Advanced-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals).
In the Quad Cities, the River Bandits, led by Heller and his partner Bob Herrfeldt, have sparked a stunning resurgence of baseball, winning two league championships in the past four seasons, setting the all-time per-game attendance record in Quad Cities (they've had affiliated baseball since 1931!) and capturing numerous awards for their innovative promotions and ballpark improvements.
Within a month of purchasing the Bandits, Heller sold naming rights to Modern Woodmen of America, a fraternal financial services company, in a 20-year deal worth $4.5 million - a huge number for a team operating in one of baseball's smaller markets. Since then, Modern Woodmen Park has earned as many accolades as any ballpark in the country. It was voted "the best minor league ballpark in America" by the readers of USA Today and 10Best.com and the Midwest League's best ballpark by Baseball America. It earned a 5-star rating from BallparkDigest.com, was named one of the two most beautiful ballparks in minor league baseball by USA Today, one of the top 10 in the nation by Parade Magazine, and was selected "the #2 Coolest Minor League Ballpark in America" by Complex Magazine.
Under Heller's leadership, the River Bandits have added many fun new features to the ballpark, including a new outfield bar, picnic area, five concourse-level "loge boxes," an 80-foot long high-definition ribbon-board, a huge new 20' x 36' tall HD videoboard, a new playground, birthday room, concessions stand and a dozen new portable food carts, a Hall of Fame autographed jersey display, an unmatched collection of bobbleheads from across the country and a (sponsored) corn field from where the players are introduced at the game's outset (after all, it is Iowa)!
In 2011, the Bandits unveiled their spectacular new Budweiser "Champions Club," a large, glass-enclosed multi-purpose banquet hall with glass garage doors that open and close based on the weather. That room has helped the club increase wedding business by more than 500% and is used year-round for a myriad of non-baseball events. It was voted by Ballpark Digest as "the best ballpark renovation under $1 million."
In 2014, the Bandits unveiled their biggest improvement ever - the addition of a new 105-foot tall Ferris wheel, the first Ferris wheel in Minor League Baseball! That ride has already transformed the Quad Cities' skyline and become an iconic part of downtown Davenport - and it, too, was named by Ballpark Digest as "the nation's best ballpark improvement" (the fourth time in seven years Main Street Baseball has earned that award!).
The team also added a 30-foot tall Drop-N-Twist and a NASA-inspired gyroscope called "Space Camp" to go with an expanded 300-foot long zip line, six bounce houses and a 25-foot tall rock climbing wall! It also added two new group areas: 50 new swivel-chair seats adjacent to the field and 18 new seats adjacent to the visitor's dugout, as well as a small group of seats set aside for our nation's veterans (the Hon. Lane Evans Patriot Seats). Coming in 2015 are three new themed areas, including a new deck featuring a firepit to keep fans warm during April and May, a new expanded children's play area and additional rides down the right field line and a huge 10,000 square foot expansion of the third-base concourse above the existing maintenance yard.
Since taking over the Bandits, sponsorship sales, suite sales, ticket sales, and concession sales have all seen annual increases. The team's average attendance in its first year under Main Street rose by more than 56%, the largest such increase in baseball, and has since climbed to nearly 4,000 fans per game, the highest ever seen in the Quad Cities. The Bandits also led one of sports' most successful rebranding campaigns - merchandise sales after the 2008 rebranding increased more than 400%, sponsorships jumped more than 64% in that first season, and CNBC named the team's logo one of the top eight in minor league baseball. In 2014, the team's home cap was voted the best cap in all of Single-A and short-season baseball.
The River Bandits have been voted Best Family Entertainment by the Quad-City Times for each of the past five years and were voted by the River Cities Reader as "The Best Place for An Inexpensive Date that Doesn't Look Like It." The team won the prestigious "Golden Bobblehead" award in 2013 for best charitable promotion in Minor League Baseball for its Autism Awareness Night. It also won a "Veeckie Award" from ESPN in 2009 for best minor league promotion ("Tattoo Night") and the "Promotion of the Year" Award from Ballpark Digest the same year for the team's "Mega-Candy Drop," as well as a Gold Award from the U.S. Army for its community service.
Main Street Baseball has also been a trail-blazer, having hired both the Midwest League's only female general manager and, later, the only African-American GM in minor league baseball. The River Bandits have consistently been among MiLB's leaders in putting women in leadership positions, and are the only minor league club to have won back-to-back Diversity Economic Impact Engagement (DEIE) Scholarships since MLB started the award.
Perhaps most important, under Heller the River Bandits continue to give back to the community. In 2009, the team started its "Bandit Scholars" program in which it paid one year's full college tuition for one area student. By 2014, the team awarded three such scholarships - two to attend the University of Iowa and one to attend Western Illinois University. The team has donated more than $1 million in cash and in-kind gifts to area charities and needy recipients, including a $50,000 cash award to the Genesis Foundation to help fund neo-natal intensive care units and flu vaccinations in the Quad Cities.
Since Heller purchased the High Desert Mavericks of the California League, the team has enjoyed a new level of profitability. The team sold naming rights to the field (now "Heritage Field") and conference room, and made numerous improvements to the ballpark, including redone home and visitors' clubhouses, a new and expanded Team Store, renovated and expanded team offices, a new game-day rental suite, a new batting cage, new umpires' facilities, a repaved parking lot and a newly-painted concourse. These improvements have combined to breathe new life and energy into the ballpark and attract new fans throughout the region.
The results have been nothing short of amazing: In 2014, the Mavericks boasted the single-largest attendance increase (excluding teams opening brand new ballparks in new states) in all of Minor League Baseball!
The Billings Mustangs have been every bit as successful. In 2014, the team won the Pioneer League Championship, finished second in attendance and saw its general manager, Gary Roller, win Pioneer League Executive of the Year.
In addition to his work in baseball, Heller is also regarded as one of the Democratic Party's top political media consultants and campaign strategists. As president of Main Street Communications, an award-winning political media firm, he has compiled the best won-loss record in the Democratic Party helping clients win election to Congress. His clients have won 11 out of 14 general election open seat races for Congress (open seats being the most contested races). He also handled all of the advertising for the Democrat representing the "reddest" district in the nation, Congressman Collin Peterson of Minnesota.
Heller graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with honors from Brown University and earned a Master's Degree in Politics from Oxford University (Nuffield College), where he earned an Overseas Research Scholarship. He went on to Yale University, where he completed his Master's thesis and taught his own undergraduate seminar on 20th Century American politics, before moving to Washington, D.C. Born in Cleveland and raised in Baltimore, Heller and his wife June now live in Miami and Davenport with their two sons, Dylan (6) and Cade (4).