Minor League promo staple brings people together, separately
The Omaha Storm Chasers staged a drive-in fireworks show at their home of Werner Park, located in nearby Papillion, Nebraska.
April 23, 2020
A long, long time ago -- Feb. 5, to be exact -- the Omaha Storm Chasers announced that a fireworks show would follow every Saturday game at the team's home of Werner Park. The first show scheduled was for April 18, after that evening's contest against the San Antonio Missions. By
A long, long time ago -- Feb. 5, to be exact -- the Omaha Storm Chasers announced that a fireworks show would follow every Saturday game at the team's home of Werner Park. The first show scheduled was for April 18, after that evening's contest against the San Antonio Missions. By the time April 18 rolled around, however, the coronavirus had made the world a very different place. The Storm Chasers, Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, had no games to play. Werner Park, located in the Omaha suburb of Papillion, Nebraska, was strangely, suddenly, empty. Nonetheless, the fireworks show went on.
The Storm Chasers' Drive-In Fireworks Show was a first-of-its-kind event, scheduled, per a team press release, "to provide the community a few minutes of relief during the COVID-19 pandemic." Attendees were invited to watch the display from the Werner Park parking lot, remaining in their vehicles for the duration of the show. Admission was free, and no concessions or restrooms were available. Despite the anomalous circumstances, approximately 5,000 cars filled the Werner Park lot. Thousands of additional fans watched the show from the parking lots of nearby schools and businesses, while others were able to see the show from their own backyards.
Martie Cordaro, Storm Chasers president, said that Drive-In Fireworks was part of the team's effort to engage with the community during these sports-free times. "As soon as we knew our offices would shut down, beginning March 16, we started talking about what we were going to do," said Cordaro. "It wasn't a wait-and-see approach. It started immediately. What are we looking to do, to stay relevant, to give back, to sell?" The Drive-In Fireworks show, overseen by Storm Chasers assistant general manager of special events Andrea Bedore, was planned over a two-week period. In addition to being a notable example of community engagement, it allowed the team to strengthen its relationships with fireworks provider J&M Displays and fireworks show sponsor Hy-Vee (a Midwest-based supermarket chain). But it all started with the approval of local officials. "The first step was law enforcement. We wanted to make sure that whatever we were doing, it would not be something that added on to their duties. We wanted to make sure it would be welcomed," Cordaro said. "After that approval, if you will, we went to the [Sarpy/Cass County] Health Department, visited the executive director there, and started talking about the do's and don'ts from a health perspective. No transactions, everyone stay in their car. From the standpoint of everyone's eagerness to assist, we couldn't say anything more positive." The typical Minor League fireworks show is the cherry on top of the sundae that is the game itself. But on this night in Omaha it was the main event, the only game in town. Thus, the Storm Chasers put on a show that was approximately three times as long as a normal display -- and also three times as large.
"Normally, we'd use two- to three-inch shells, but J&M Displays wanted to step up and make this a bigger community experience. They upped it to five- to six-inch shells. It didn't change our costs -- they worked with us. They're out of Iowa, a local Midwest company. Ted Kallhoff, our contact, he's a big supporter of Minor League Baseball. The thinking was that larger shells would allow more people to see the show, more people in the community, our neighbors, people up and down the ballpark corridor area. That shows the spirit of the partnership. That, in spite of the virus, we're still community, we're still country." Another local partner provided the soundtrack. "You couldn't hear music from inside the ballpark," said Cordaro. "We needed a way for fans to hear, so everyone at home or in their cars was able to turn to Star 104.5 on their dial and listen." Omaha has already scheduled another Drive-In Fireworks show, for May 9. The Storm Chasers are, thus far, the only Minor League team to have staged such an event, but Cordaro said that others have reached out to him to gauge the viability of doing something similar in their own markets. "Going into this, we thought this would be a relatively small thing," Cordaro admitted. "Something we could say we did, offering families locked down in their house a little bit of a break, an escape from reality. It was way more than that. It was a community gathering without the community being engaged with each other. It was amazing, simply amazing, the response we got."