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Power Park's 'Belly Buster Monday' irks fan

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- One of this season's newest promotions at the Appalachian Power Park has garnered a complaint from a more health conscious fan.

Monday nights at the baseball park is now known as "Belly Buster Monday," where an increased admission price of $15 buys entrance to the park and all-you-can-eat baseball fare.

Such fare includes corndogs, fries, hot dogs, hamburgers, popcorn, peanuts, soft drinks and soft pretzels - food that Anita Gunnoe, a longtime fan and local health professional, says isn't impressive to fans concerned about nutritional value.

Gunnoe, a licensed respiratory therapist and massage therapist, and her husband, Paul, took their two grown sons to Monday's Power game. The team was slated to take on the Asheville Tourists, but the game was canceled after an irrigation problem rendered the field unplayable.

Gunnoe said she was surprised when she was told at the gate that tickets on Mondays were $15, instead of the regular $5 and $7, because of the new promotion.

When she asked if there were other, cheaper ticket options that did not include the promotion, she was told to speak with the park's general manager, Joe Payne.

"We were told that if we didn't pay for the $15 Belly Buster ticket that we could not attend the game," Gunnoe said. "We were given no choices, no opportunities. It was either pay the $15 for all-you-can-eat junk or don't come to the game."

Payne was not available for comment Tuesday afternoon.

The Gunnoes left the game and vowed not to return until changes were made, allowing them the option to choose whether to indulge in the smorgasbord of park food.

Andy Milovich, vice president of Palisades Baseball, the California-based corporation that manages the park, said they were struggling to fill the park on Monday nights and the new promotion was suggested to them by visiting teams and fans.

Milovich said other minor league and some major league parks have had great success with similar promotions.

Last season, he said, the park tried to entice fans by offering free food for kids but the numbers remained low. Kids' night has since been moved to Sunday nights with the added bonus of free admission for children, he said.

Milovich admits the park's management team had a difficult time figuring out how to handle the new promotion.

One option was offering a wristband to those who paid extra. But it was determined that wasn't feasible, Milovich said, because one person in a group could buy the band and simply hand off the free food to the others.

And confining those fans that want to take part in the promotion to a specific area in the park didn't seem fair either, he said.

"We had one night a week that consistently did not make money for the park and we came up with this promotion as a way to sort of try to move the needle," Milovich said.

Milovich noted a new natural foods booth, which offers more nutritious snacks and beverages, opened this year but isn't included in the Monday night promotion.

He said the new booth wasn't included because the food items sold are pricier than those sold at the park's regular concessions.

"Personally, this promotion wouldn't appeal to me either, but it appeals to some people," Milovich said. "For me, unlimited nachos, hot dogs and all of that isn't appealing, but you've got some people who wait all week for all-you-can-eat wing night at their favorite wing spot.

He added, "If it were me, I'd come on a different night. There are 62 other nights this season where this won't be an issue."

Gunnoe said she has since called other smaller parks in the Power's South Atlantic League. She said most, if not all, offer a similar promotion, but also provide other ticket options.

She said she only wants the chance to choose.

"I think that by taking choices away from the fans who are there to support their sports team they're really turning people away," Gunnoe said. "All-you-can-eat junk food is not why people go to a ballgame.

"Why should I have to pay extra for something I don't want?"

Milovich said since the promotion just began there was no way to tell if it would be successful. He said if deemed successful, the park would continue the promotion. If not, they would most likely "scrap it."

Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at ashley.craig@dailymail.com or 304-348-4850.


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