New seats, new security rules, the requisite amount of new food items and (perhaps) a farewell to a favorite character. Those are some of the backdrops to the Buffalo Bisons' season-long celebration of the 30th year of baseball in Coca-Cola Field, which begins with Thursday afternoon's season opener against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
To honor the 30th anniversary season, each game on the home schedule that's on the 30th of the month will have a major giveaway. Championship banner replicas will be given away on May 30, July 30 and Aug. 30 to commemorate league titles won in 1997, 1998 and and 2004, respectively, and those nights will feature $1 hot dogs. Aug. 30 will be 30th Season Celebration Night, with activities to be announced. In addition, a Coca-Cola Field Replica Giveaway will be available on June 15.
The ballpark has 2,900 new green seats on the lower level down both lines and the wider seats lower capacity to 16,907. For the first time this year, fans must pass through metal detectors before they can enter. Fans will be asked to put their cell phones and cameras on to racks, walk through the detector and then reclaim their items.
"It's the same exact system used at the Bills games," said Bisons VP/General Manager Mike Buczkowski. "Same manufacturer and really the same thing you're used to when you go to a Sabres game. Providing a safe and clean facility is something you have to do if you're going to be successful. This enhances the security for our fans and associates."
Away from the games and the anniversary, a major theme for 2017 will be Celery's Farewell Tour, as the racing mascot that never wins goes into what the team announced last year will be retirement following this season.
What's dubbed as the "WCC Race" for Wing, Cheese and Celery has become the biggest sideshow to every Bisons game. The nightly jaunt around the warning track featuring Chicken Wing, Atomic Wing, Blue Cheese and Celery is a favorite among fans and on social media, just as character races are in several major-league parks.
"Celery is probably still the No. 1 fan feedback emails we get," Buczkowski said. "Why is Celery retiring? Is Celery going to win? We just don't know those answers at this point. We'll see what unravels when we get into the season. We always thought it would be fun, be part of the gameday experience. But now when you look at the 30 years, the Wing race is as well known as the Earl of Bud or Conehead or some of the other entertainment staples we've had."
Speaking of wings, the Bisons unveiled their new food lineup during a press conference in Pettibones Grille last month and local food and craft beers were high on the priority list. The team will hold happy hours prior to Friday night games starting in May featuring the craft brews. As for food, it's likely the the new chicken wing and beef on weck varieties of Ru's Pierogi's will be a hit.
"This is new wave pierogi," Buczkowski joked. "It's one of the great ethnic foods Buffalo is known for."
The team is promising better Friday night postgame fireworks this year with a new In-Park Experience from Zambelli Internationale providing an immersive experience rather than having them shot off from a nearby parking lot. As usual, the promotional calendar is full on other nights as well.
Blue Jays Weekend to honor the parent club will be May 20-21, the 10th annual Star Wars Night is June 3, Atomic Wing Bobblehead Night is June 28. There will be two Dog Days this year (May 6 and Aug. 28). Independence Eve with the Buffalo Philharmonic remains on July 3. Former Buffalo Bills great Darryl Talley will appear to sign autographs and be the subject of a bobblehead giveaway on July 15. Seinfield Night featuring John O'Hurley (Mr. Peterman) will be Aug. 5.
The Bisons will be accepting Canadian money at par in April at the box office (residency ID required) as well as concession stands and Pettibones. Buczkowski estimates single-game sales to fans from across the border has doubled since the Blue Jays affiliation began in 2013, to roughly 25 percent.
Ticket prices were raised slightly in all areas, ranging from $10.50-$15.50 based on day of the week. But fans can now save $2 on all tickets purchased in advance of game day.