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Giant Bats & Solar Panels: Big Vision Drives Innovation at Ballparks of America

31 Mar, 2021

By: Ashley Whittaker

Vision. It’s what sets apart the average from the extraordinary. Vision is what turned a cartoonist’s idea for short films in 1923 into an industry-leading $200 billion company today – which we know, of course, as the Walt Disney Company.

It’s easy to name and recognize the achievements of the most well-known visionaries of our time from Steve Jobs to Warren Buffet, but what’s more subtle are the visionaries close to home – the ones making bold choices toward fulfilling a life-changing goal.

Here’s where we meet the ownership group of Ballparks of America – Paul Satterwhite, Greg Snider, Dale Helle, and Steve Strobel. After taking over ownership of the Ballparks property in early 2020, the team has defined and refined their vision of what Ballparks of America can be for their players, spectators, and families from across the world. As an international destination for high quality tournament baseball, Ballparks has a longstanding reputation for being a premier place to play. But the sports park is so much more than baseball.

“Some of the most impactful moments for our players happen off the field,” said Paul Satterwhite, Ballparks of America owner. “Throughout their stay on our campus, our teams have the opportunity to bond as a team, enjoy Branson’s attractions, and most importantly, make new friends and lifelong memories. These are the moments these kids will remember for the rest of their lives.”

One conversation with Satterwhite and the vision is clear – create the next-generation sports park that serves their mission: to provide a world-class tournament and vacation experience, allowing players, coaches and families to create lifelong memories. Upgrades have been made to the park in preparation for the 2021 season with new elements ranging from a huge solar panel installation, a 30’ baseball bat, a new on-site restaurant, and everything in between.

If you’ve seen the aerial images of Ballparks of America, you know the iconic replica ball fields are nestled between the signature red roofs of the original build, a Red Roof Mall. This extensive roof space provided the perfect opportunity to make a strategic investment in technology and energy efficiency with a massive solar array from ArrowPointSolar. The array is composed over more than 1,000 south-facing solar panels strategically positioned to maximize solar absorption. This array will save the complex thousands of dollars in utilities bills in most months, depending on the season.

“Ballparks and its location in Branson are an incredible case study for solar in sports parks,” said Shawn Roberts, Owner of the Nixa, Mo-based ArrowPoint Solar. “With access to USDA grants, utility company rebates, and PACE loans, we’re able to help entrepreneurs like Greg and Paul take huge steps forward in energy efficiency for their property. This is the largest display we’ve done to date and are so proud to be able to work in our own backyard.”

Advice from Roberts for facility owners or CVB’s hoping to follow in the footsteps of Ballparks: look for the rebates, incentives, and funding mechanisms available for this type of project. These vary from state-to-state and even county-to-county, but the legwork is worth the pay-off in subsidies and energy efficiency.

Solar power isn’t the only efficient new feature at the park; an on-site, state-of-the-art commercial kitchen and restaurant will be opening on the property this summer as well.

“We’re thinking about every aspect of the park and how to make it great for our players and families,” said Satterwhite. “With this new kitchen we can do breakfast and lunch on site for all our teams. We’ll be piling up pancakes, eggs, and bacon for all the kids and then opening the restaurant to families and the public later in the morning. We’ll also be able to do late night snacks and pizza for all the teams in our dorms. It exponentially opens up the options for how we can serve the kids and families and make the teams’ on-site stay memorable.”

There are many ideas in the works in collaboration with the facility’s operating team from the Sports Facilities Companies. From potential new menu ideas ranging from larger-than-life ice cream sundaes to piles of fries and pulled pork nachos, the team continues to think of how to innovate and bring each part of the park to life.

“We’re so fortunate to work with such a visionary ownership group,” said Lori Moore, an Executive with Sports Facilities Companies who oversees the property among several others in the SFM Network. “There’s always something new around the corner. 2021 will be a whole new Ballparks experience.”

Highlighting the enhanced Ballparks experience is their newest ‘instagrammable’ feature, a 30’ replica baseball bat which comes with a twenty-year history. In another example of “going green” the team elected to up-cycle a baseball bat formerly displayed at two sports bars in Springfield, Missouri. Around the same time Ballparks GM Scott Bailes joined the Ballparks team, he acquired the bat and oversaw its delivery from Springfield to Branson. The bat has now found its new home outside the iconic Chicago field in the heart of Ballparks’ campus, with a new coat of red, white, and blue paint courtesy of Ballparks’ staff to boot. Custom Cooperstown Bat Company replicas of the new Ballparks bat are available in the on-site pro shop for guests looking for a special souvenir before saying goodbye for the summer.

Step by step, the Ballparks of America team are turning their vision for the destination into reality. What else is in store for the thousands of 10-14 year old players who visit the park each year? Only time will tell.

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