Florida minor league stadium sells out on Airbnb in days
By mid-morning Tuesday, the main office number with Pensacola Blue Wahoos rang incessantly.
More than a hundred emails needed answered. Media awareness had gone nationwide and even into Japan where a newspaper in Osaka published a story.
Already, it was an innkeeper’s dream.
No Vacancy. A full month of 30-plus room nights were sold out.
A holiday weekend after the Blue Wahoos first announced their stadium and home clubhouse was now available for an Airbnb reservation, complete with exclusive access for up 10 people for $1,500, the swell of interest was beyond anyone’s wildest dream.
Beginning with the first guests coming this Sunday, the Blue Wahoos’ Airbnb stay at the bayfront ballpark is booked through the entire month of June. The Blue Wahoos are the first minor league, professional baseball team to offer such a concept and one of the few in any professional sports level.
“I think what we wanted to do is just create these experiences that people will remember for a long, time,” said Blue Wahoos team owner Quint Studer. “I mean, what a cool experience to be able to walk out of the (clubhouse) tunnel, onto the field and have it to yourselves. What a unique opportunity.”
The interest proves it.
Daniel Venn, the Blue Wahoos media relations director, announced the launch of the Airbnb and reservations page in a social media post at 9 p.m. Friday. Twelve hours later, the buzz started to build. ESPN picked up on the concept with a story on its web site and it took off from there.
“I was thinking ‘Just give this 24 hours’. People will notice,” Venn said. “Great ideas have a way of getting people’s attention.
And all of this started innocently enough, during a recent kitchen table discussion with Mallory Studer, a marketing business professional and daughter of Quint and Rishy Studer. Mallory has her own Airbnb listed and is well-versed in the concept.
“Why don’t you use the stadium as an Airbnb?” she said, telling her parents it could be popular and another way to generate revenue with baseball on hold, due the coronavirus pandemic.
“Mallory is an idea a minute,” Quint Studer said. “She just started clicking (websites) and seeing if we could do an Airbnb at the ballpark. And it just exploded.”
The beds were installed Tuesday, and later this week the entire home team clubhouse will be ready for the upcoming weekend of family visits. From that point, it will be non-stop vacation stays through June.
If the Blue Wahoos wanted to book July stays, those would already be sold out, too. But until official word from Major League Baseball occurs on whether there will be a partial minor league baseball season – or none at all – the team has put July Airbnb on hold.
“It has been crazy,” said Bailie Tate, a Blue Wahoos group sales executive and Pace High, UWF graduate. “We were technically filling up (for July) and I had to reach out to all of them to say if we aren’t able to play baseball here, then you will have this date you requested.
“Everybody has been nice about it. We have a long wait list going, so that is super exciting.”
In fact, now, the Blue Wahoos are planning to convert the visiting team clubhouse as well.
“I got a call from a youth league team with 15 players and three coaches,” Quint Studer said.“They would like to do an overnight with their 10-year-olds and their coaches.
“But 10 is all we can have (in home clubhouse under state guidelines). But you could put some in the visiting locker room and now all of sudden you have doubled the capacity.”
For $1,500 a group of up to 10 people can have exclusive access to the home clubhouse and its amenities. The clubhouse was renovated during the winter with new carpeting, high-end, all-wood locker, leather logo coaches, multiple flat-screen televisions, a ping-pong table and upgraded sound system.
What was planned as a players' dining area will be converted into a bedroom with two queen size beds, four bunk beds, plus a refrigerator, freezer, coffee maker and microwave.
Guests have use of the indoor batting cage with baseballs and bats, plus the field lights at the ballpark will remain on until midnight for field usage.
Check in time each day is 3 p.m. and check-out is at 11 a.m. the next morning, much like a regular hotel stay.
“We can really create some once-in-a-lifetime experiences for people, so it is very exciting not only for our stadium, but to highlight the community,” Quint Studer said.
All from a kitchen conversation.
“I’m glad Mallory gave this a chance and glad we jumped on it,” Studer said. “Now we have to continue to maximize it. And it was just a huge win.
I think the neat part is not only having people creating ideas outside of our own staff, but seizing and going with it. Not to come up with reasons why we can’t do something, but figuring out how to make it happen.”
Bill Vilona is a retired Pensacola News Journal sports columnist and current senior writer for Pensacola Blue Wahoos/Studer55. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This story originally published to pnj.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.