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HERD HAS A MILLION IN ITS SIGHT; ATTENDANCE RECORD SET IN '88 MAY FALL

It looks like another seven-figure season at Pilot Field.

Unless steady rains haunt the summer months, the Buffalo Bisons anticipate eclipsing the one million mark in paid attendance for a third straight season.

And team officials also say 1988's paid attendance of 1,186,651 -- a minor league record -- is within reach.

"I think one million, on the basis of presale with groups and upcoming promotions, looks very, very good," said General Manager Michael J. Billoni. "With the play of the team and continued good weather, we feel optimistic we can begin looking at setting a new record."

The Bisons have a paid attendance of 482,774, an average of 14,630 for 33 openings. That's about 21,000 ahead of last year's pace (461,587) and about 12,000 behind the stadium's inaugural 1988 season (494,177).

The team must average 13,611 over its 38 remaining home dates to reach one million. Eclipsing the record season requires an average of 18,523.

Billoni says the Bisons off-season sales work and Pilot Field's expansion from 19,500 to 20,900 seats has made the single-season attendance record an attainable goal.

"What we had expected (in group sales) has been surpassed," Billoni said. "We have more and more groups from outside areas calling. The (radio) network we have has increased interest in Niagara County and the Hornell-Jamestown area."

Billoni said none of the remaining games is sold out, but noted that could change quickly.

"We're looking at some great crowds this weekend," he said. "It is, without a doubt, the ultimate promotional weekend we've ever put together."

The Bisons open a three-game series against the Richmond Braves of the International League at 7:05 tonight (WGR). After the last out, it's on to fireworks and "Monster Madness," the theme of this week's Fridaynightbash!

Buffalo Sports Expo '90 will precede Saturday's 7:05 p.m. start. The baseball card and sports collectors' show will take place from 10:30 to 4 p.m. along Pilot Field's main concourse. Members of the Bills, Sabres and participants in Monday's National Old Timers Baseball Classic will be available for autographs. Admission is $4, or $2 with a ticket to Monday's game.

At 6:15 p.m., it's Buffalo Bills softball, offense vs. defense, for training camp bragging rights. Also, Wheaties will distribute head and wrist bands at the gates.

Sunday is "Heritage Day," with inductions to the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame preceding the 2:05 p.m. start. The Bisons will unveil their fan-selected "Team of the Decade" and acknowledge Western New Yorkers who have played baseball professionally.

Billoni said the weekend "is nearing sellout proportions."

"And then the following weekend Rochester is in, so we're expecting some good crowds," Billoni added.

It's a hectic pace, but perhaps a record one.

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