By Jon Greenberg
It only took one question for Billy Harner to correct me. Really, just two words: Hipster Night.
When it was announced that the Brooklyn Cyclones were having Williamsburg Night at their stadium next month, people on Twitter and on sports blogs immediately thought of hipsters. It quickly became Williamsburg Hipster Night, because what else is Williamsburg known for?
So when I asked who came up with "hipster night," Harner, the Cyclones director of communications, checked me.
"We're trying to avoid that lingo," he said in a phone conversation.
Williamsburg is an up-and-coming neighborhood in Brooklyn _ think "Girls" on HBO _ and with gentrification comes the youngish, cool, sometimes tattooed and mostly skinny-jeaned city folk who get lumped into a catch-all phrase, hipster.
And the Cyclones don't want people to think a fixed gear bike rally was breaking out at their game on July 5.
"Basically, what it is and what it's been made into two are separate things," Harner said. "Every year we do nights in ballpark for different neighborhoods around Brooklyn and we use it as group marketing tool. We have different sponsors that haven't come out in the past and put tables out."
I'd like to say this is an example of Twitter blowing something out of proportion and changing the meaning to fit easy jokes. But the Cyclones didn't exactly shy away from the H-word connotations. On their online flyer, they offer special vouchers for "bearded fans" and highlight a "skinny jeans post-game run the bases." And if any fans have a Cyclones tattoo, they get a personalized jersey.
Of course, a real hipster night would be so underground, you'd never have heard of it until months later. Also, it probably wouldn't be sponsored by Verizon.
The Cyclones, who play in MCU (formerly KeySpan) Park on Coney Island, are also having nights for nearby neighborhoods Bensonhurst (350th birthday party) and blue collar Bay Ridge, but the Williamsburg night got more attention from the blog and social media crowd. New York blog Gothamist.
The Cyclones want to create a relationship with Williamsburg fans because it's a burgeoning frontier.
"Geographically it's not easy to get to Coney Island from Williamsburg," Harner said, because there is no direct train or bus route.
And the Cyclones want to attract young fans. Not just kids, like most minor league teams, but young professionals, college students, of which there are plenty in Williamsburg.
The team worked out a deal with a Williamsburg bar called Full Circle, which has skee-ball machines. The bar is busing people to the game and providing skee-ball machines for a tournament. Full Circle's "Skee-Ball Stadium" hosts a skee-ball league and a world championship.
Seriously, skee-ball at a bar? That's so hipster. Right?
"Everyone gets pumped for skee-ball," Harner said. "Everyone can do it."
The Cyclones aren't just goofing around though. While Coney Island has a population around 60,000, more than 2.5 million people live in the borough, making it one of America's biggest cities. Not the usual place to find a Single-A team. The Cyclones were in St. Catharines, Ontario from 1986 through 1999, and moved to Coney Island in 2001 after spending a year in Queens.
The Cyclones drew 245,087 last season, down from highs of 289,323 in 2006-07.
"We're more affordable than the Major League teams, and do have a lot of college kids, young professionals, and obviously families," Harner said. "Our Friday Night fireworks nights are really a mixed bag. Saturday and Sunday we do stuff specifically for kids. But during the week, we get more people straight from work. And now kids home from college."
And of course, fixed gear bike riding, microbrew drinking friends of the band.
Hey, I live in the Bucktown-Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. I'd love to have a minor league team and a Hipster Night.