Dave Heller's Bio
Dave Heller is the president and CEO of Main Street Baseball, LLC, and the majority owner and Managing Partner of five affiliated minor league baseball teams: the Quad Cities River Bandits (Midwest League, Single-A affiliate of the Houston Astros), the Wilmington Blue Rocks (Carolina League, Advanced-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals), the High Desert Mavericks (California League, Advanced-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers), the Billings Mustangs (Pioneer League, short-season affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds) and, most recently, the Lowell Spinners (New York - Penn League, short-season affiliate of the Boston Red Sox).
Heller's teams are known primarily for three things: fun, innovative promotions, making significant improvements to their home ballpark, and giving back generously to each club's home community.
In the Quad Cities, the River Bandits sparked a stunning resurgence of baseball, winning two league championships in five seasons, repeatedly 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 in a 20-year deal worth $4.5 million - a huge number for a team 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 "best minor league ballpark in America" by the readers of USA Today and 10Best.com, the Midwest League's best ballpark by Baseball America and was featured in BA's calendar of America's Best Ballparks. It earned a 5-star rating from BallparkDigest, and their readers voted it the best ballpark in Single-A baseball. It was also named one of the two most beautiful ballparks in the minors by USA Today, one of the top 10 by Parade Magazine, and "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 high-definition ribbon-board, a new 20' x 36' HD videoboard, a new playground, birthday room, concessions stand, triple suite and a dozen new portable food carts, a Hall of Fame autographed jersey display, an unmatched collection of minor league bobbleheads, a permanent home on the suite level for the Quad-Cities Sports Hall of Fame and a (sponsored) corn field from where the players are introduced at the game's outset (after all, it is Iowa)!
The Bandits also built the spectacular Budweiser "Champions Club," a large, glass-enclosed multi-purpose banquet hall with glass garage doors that open/close based on the weather. That room has helped the club increase wedding business by more than 1,000% and 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 earned that award!).
The team has also added an expanded children's play area featuring a 30-foot tall Drop-N-Twist, spinning bumper cars, a swinging pirate ship and a NASA-inspired gyroscope to go with a myriad of bounce houses. And it unveiled two new group areas: 50 new swivel-chair seats abutting the home bullpen as part of a new three-level group area and 18 seats adjacent to the visitor's dugout, as well as a special group of seats set aside for our nation's veterans (the Hon. Lane Evans Patriot Seats). Most recently, the Bandits added an 11,000 square foot expansion of the third-base concourse, renovated both the home and visitors' clubhouses and expanded the club's kitchen.
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 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%, and CNBC named the team's logo one of the top caps in minor league baseball. In 2014, the team's home cap was voted the best cap in all of Single-A baseball.
The River Bandits have been voted Best Family Entertainment by the Quad-City Times for each of the past six 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.
The River Bandits also give back to the community. In 2009, the team started its "Bandit Scholars" program which paid an entire year's college tuition for one area student. Today, the team funds three such scholarships - one each for the University of Iowa, Western Illinois University and Augustana University. It has donated more than $1 million in cash and gifts to area charities and needy recipients, including a two-year $100,000 cash award to the Genesis Foundation to help fund neo-natal intensive care units and flu vaccinations. In 2015, Ballpark Digest awarded the Bandits "Best Charitable Promotion" in the nation for their work.
Since Heller purchased the High Desert Mavericks of the California League, that team has sold naming rights to the field (now "Heritage Field") and made numerous improvements to the ballpark, including renovating both the home and visitors' clubhouses, expanding the Team Store, renovating and expanding the team offices, repaving the parking lot and repainting the concourse. There are also a number of new improvements, including a new game-day rental suite, a new batting cage, and new umpires' facilities. These improvements have breathed new life and energy into the ballpark and attracted new fans. The results speak for themselves: In 2014, the Mavericks boasted the largest attendance increase (excluding teams opening new ballparks) in all of Minor League Baseball!
The Billings Mustangs have been even more 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. The club is consistently among the Pioneer League's attendance leaders. In 2015 and again in 2016, the team has seen increases in literally every area - from attendance to corporate sponsorships to concessions and merchandise sales to in-game promotions! This season, the club is adding a new 300-foot long zip-line, visible from home plate, to the ballpark - the first of its kind in Minor League Baseball!
Heller's fourth club, the Wilmington Blue Rocks, are regarded as one of the Carolina League's premier franchises. Their ballpark, Frawley Stadium, was voted best ballpark in Advanced-A baseball by readers of Ballpark Digest in 2015 and that club is also consistently among the league leaders in attendance and sponsorships. In 2015, the team won Ballpark Digest's award for Best New Food Item. They are also improving their venue: Frawley Stadium has all new seats and the team is currently working to replace and upgrade the ballpark's lights and sound system. And the Blue Rocks give back: in both 2014 and 2015, the club earned the prestigious Matt Minker Award from fellow Carolina League members for its charitable contributions throughout the Wilmington region.
Heller's newest club is the Lowell Spinners, a Boston Red Sox affiliate based in Lowell, Massachusetts. That club also consistently draws more than 4,000 fans per game, putting it among the league's leaders in attendance. This year, it will feature its first amusement ride in the ballpark - a new swinging pirate ship!
In addition to his work in baseball, Heller is one of the Democratic Party's top 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 15 out of 19 general election open seat races for Congress (open seats being the most contested races) and have repeatedly won re-election in some of the nation's toughest districts, including now-U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) in 2010 and retired Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), who won in a newly redrawn R+13 district in 2012. He also handled all of the advertising for the man currently representing the nation's "reddest" district to be won by a Democrat, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and, in 2016, handled all of the media for the next mayor of Baltimore, Catherine Pugh.
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 Davenport, Iowa, and Miami, Florida, with their two sons, Dylan (8) and Cade (5).