Footballs may soon fly at Zephyr Stadium
It may be that high school football at Zephyr Stadium may change from possible to imminent.
Last week, several representatives from the New Orleans Catholic League met with representatives from the New Orleans Zephyrs.
New Zephyrs general manager Cookie Rojas was among those in the meeting.
“In Rhode Island, where we came from, high school football is nothing compared to what it is in Louisiana,” said Rojas.
“And, we have high school football in the fall. We will leave it that.”
That’s a change for the Zephyrs, part of a sea change that commenced when a group, headed by Lou Schweckheimer, took over controlling interest in the club.
Schweckheimer has a sterling baseball résumé. In 1979, he was hired as an intern in Pawtucket. Seven years later, he was named general manager.
He ended his 37-year association with the Paw Sox last September.
Rojas said he and Schweckheimer, “his mentor,” have big plans for the Zephyrs.
“I would like to see this venue become a community gem,” said Rojas, “that everyone can relate to.”
Like it was in 1997, when the stadium opened. In that inaugural season in the new ballpark, New Orleans drew 507,164 fans.
That franchise attendance record was shattered a year later.
In August of 1998, more than 11,000 were in the ballpark when team mascots, Boudreaux and Clotile were married.
In September of that year, Lance Berkman hit three home runs in the deciding game as New Orleans won the Triple A World Series.
The last Pacific Coast League Championship for the Zephyrs was 2001.
In 2015, New Orleans finished 14th in attendance in the 16-team Pacific Coast League.
Rojas came to Zephyr Field last August on a scouting mission for the potential new ownership. He purchased tickets for two games as a fan.
And, looked around.
“What I saw was a place that has unlimited potential,” said Rojas. “What I saw was a place that needed TLC, commitment.”
Rojas said the goals of the new ownership are high.
“Five years from now, we are going to be the number one franchise in all of minor league baseball,” said Rojas. “Number one in attendance, number one in customer service, number one in fan retention, number one in corporate partnerships.”
“We believe in setting goals and then finding a way to achieve them.”
Concerts are already happening. Mumford and Sons are scheduled to play at Zephyr Field April 9. Another concert could be announced soon.
Rojas, of Colombian descent, has already been a guest on a local Spanish- speaking radio station.
He said the Zephyrs will also make a big reach out to the African-American community.
And, footballs could soon be in the air, across the parking lot from the Saints facility on Airline Drive.