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WBJ: The Business of the NBC

This article appears on the Wichita Business Journal website. 

By Josh Heck

Kevin Jenks doesn’t sleep much in the days leading up to the National Baseball Congress World Series.

As tournament director and general manager for the National Baseball Congress Foundation, much of the responsibility for ensuring the oldest continuous sporting event in the United States succeeds will fall on him.

But Jenks can rest a little easier knowing interest in the 30-team tournament is increasing, reflected by increases in attendance, corporate sponsorships and community buy-in.

Jenks sat down with the Wichita Business Journal last week to detail the operational components required to make the NBC World Series go, the ongoing push to grow the organization and ensure it remains a viable stand-alone entity for years to come.

All told, the NBC Foundation is about a $1.5 million operation with all of the tournament expenses factored in.

Jenks wants the organization to be a community fixture year-round, not just a few weeks out of every summer, and cross-promote with other events, such as the Wichita River Festival.

“This is a community tradition,” Jenks says. “This is a part of Wichita — been that way for many years — and we need to make sure we don’t lose it.”

The NBC Foundation has grown from being a one-man operation in 2015 to having three other people besides Jenks as full-time staff members. Jenks spent 2013 and 2014 working on the World Series as part of the Wichita Wingnuts staff. He transitioned to full-time oversight of tournament operations in November of 2014.

Now, the foundation has personnel devoted to operations, partnerships and marketing and communications. Three seasonal employees are utilized before and during the World Series. A team of 40 to 50 volunteers also help with the games — typically around 10 people per game — serving as ticket takers, ushers and assisting with team hospitality.

Jenks says the organization is growing by engaging with local businesses and nonprofit organizations, along with more community partnerships.

“It’s relationships,” Jenks said. “To us, that’s what life is all about.”

The emphasis on relationships — new and fostering existing ones — is so significant that the foundation hired a dedicated partnership director last year, Eddie Fahnestock.

With a full year under his belt, Fahnestock is a big reason why the Wichita business community has stepped to the plate, adding 30 new corporate sponsors for the 2017 World Series, pushing the total number of sponsorships over 100.

“We knew in that first year we weren’t giving our sponsors enough attention,” Jenks says.

Jenks says sponsorships range from $250 to $25,000, covering title sponsorships for games, and in-game advertising and promotions.

Hotel and restaurant vendors also partner with the NBC Foundation to provide food and lodging for participating teams, staff and guests.

Jenks says the foundation has 20 restaurant partners and eight to 10 hotel partners that aid those efforts.

Business buy-in

The foundation made news in June with the announcement of longtime sponsor Westar Energy as the title sponsor for the World Series.

Westar officials say the investment is justified.

“More than anything else, it’s doing something for our community,” says Jeff Beasley, Westar’s vice president of customer care based in Wichita. “The NBC tournament is one of the signature events for Wichita. It has a great history to it.”

Other Wichita businesses agree, and they’ve also bought in.

“This tournament has been around a long time and it feels like it is gaining momentum again,” says Rod Young, CEO of Professional Engineering Consultants PA, one of this year’s new corporate sponsors. “I think Kevin has done a great job of getting this event in front of corporate sponsors.”

Young says getting involved with the tournament also is a way to give back to the community and PEC employees. PEC receives an allotment of tickets for its sponsorship as well as access to a Lawrence-Dumont suite one of the nights.

The company is paying $10,000 to sponsor two dates during the World Series, July 24 and the Aug. 4 quarterfinals during Championship Week.

Foley Equipment Co., Kansas Surgery & Recovery Center, Kansas Gas Service and Key Construction Inc. are among the new World Series sponsors this year as well.

Jenks anticipates a 75 percent year-over-year increase in sponsorship revenue this year, not including proceeds from tickets and concessions.

The NBC Foundation, he says, receives all of the ticket revenue from the World Series and a percentage of concession sales.

Kansas Stars appeal

The addition of the Kansas Stars team, comprised of Hall of Famers and former major league players, has increased the tournament’s appeal, supporters say.

Last year, the team helped produce multiple sell-out crowds at Lawrence-Dumont, as tournament attendance continues to grow.

Attendance during the games in which the Stars played drew roughly 6,000 fans apiece, double that of other tournament games.

Jenks says the tournament drew roughly 44,000 people in 2015, the first year under the direction of the nonprofit organization. That was a 9 percent increase over 2014, Jenks says.

Total attendance grew to around 55,000 people in 2016, bolstered by the Kansas Stars playing during Championship Week.

The goal is to increase the tournament attendance total another 10 percent this year.

Helping Delano grow

The NBC World Series creates a financial ripple effect with people from in and out of town staying in local hotels, eating at local restaurants and taking in the city’s attractions.

The 2016 tournament created an economic impact of $2.5 million, according to estimates from Visit Wichita and the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission.

Businesses in the Delano District are among those that benefit most from the NBC Tournament because of their proximity to Lawrence-Dumont.

Jennifer Ray, owner of the Monarch, says business at the restaurant picks up in the later part of the afternoons during the tournament. Most often, she says, people are getting a meal and some drinks before evening games, but occasionally people will come in between or after games as well.

On Kansas Stars game nights, Ray expects triple the number of people other NBC World Series games bring.

“That is something we really have to plan for,” she says. “All you can really do is focus on how you can get people in and out as quickly as possible. You don’t want people to leave unhappy.”

The Monarch will add staff and offer limited menu items on nights when capacity crowds are expected.

Other Delano businesses also see an increase in foot traffic during the two-week tournament.

Jack Kellogg, owner of Hatman Jack’s, says the World Series helps provide a bump in sales during a slower time of the year, from customers from across the U.S.

“The NBC Tournament is like a big convention,” he says. “It performs for us in a very positive way because of new faces from different places.”

Helping other nonprofits

Jenks and the NBC Foundation have made helping other nonprofits a higher priority over the past couple of years as a way to promote services and causes in the community.

The NBC partners with a local nonprofit organization — the majority providing youth services — on a 50/50 raffle promotion. The beneficiary organization is allowed to recruit its own volunteers to sell raffle tickets during games and provide information about services provided.

Half of the money raised through the raffle goes directly to the featured nonprofit organization on a particular night. The other half goes to the fan whose ticket number is drawn. Jenks says in some cases the winning fan will give the money back to the featured nonprofit organization. Martin Pringle Law Firm sponsors the raffle promotion throughout the tournament.

Nonprofit leaders say that promotion is a way for local organizations to gain some added exposure in the community.

Debbie Kennedy, CEO of the Wichita Children’s Home, says being featured for one night during the tournament will provide a platform for the organization to share its story. The children’s home will be the highlighted nonprofit on Aug. 3.

Kennedy says the added exposure will help her organization connect with ambassadors who are interested in serving as a volunteer, donor or both.

She’s glad the NBC Foundation is making a more concerted effort to work with local nonprofit organizations locally.

“It’s better when we can all work together in a collective fashion because it benefits us all and makes the community better,” Kennedy says.

See the full article here:https://www.bizjournals.com/wichita/news/2017/07/21/the-business-of-the-nbc.html

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