CINCINNATI -- A lot of attention has been paid this offseason to what the Reds might look like on the field in 2016. But what might be in store on the business side and for fans watching the game? MLB.com recently spoke to Reds chief operating officer Phil Castellini about the fan experience at Great American Ball Park this coming season.
MLB.com: Coming off a year with the All-Star Game and all the successes on the business side, how do you follow up in 2016?
Castellini: Well, you don't. That's the first answer. We just get back to our business, which is having a great time at the ballpark and having the best fan experience possible. In that light, we've got a new project going on the view level [upper deck] this year, focusing on millennials and getting that younger audience in there, people in their 20s. It's going to be a walk-in bar concept with a rooftop beer garden and a new party area. We're turning our old all-you-can-eat seats into kind of a general admission ticket where the first drink is on us. We haven't done much on the view level before, so this is a big project for us. There are great views of the city skyline and Mount Adams. It's all the way down the left-field line, right at the elevation of the top of the foul pole. It's going to be a really cool area.
It's getting back to the basics for us. It's another great season at Great American Ball Park. We did a ton of renovations last year with a new scoreboard. It will be a [Reds Hall of Fame] gala year. We'll replace the All-Star festivities with the Hall of Fame weekend. It will be a full weekend. It's not as long as the four or five days of All-Star, but certainly three robust days of the 1976 anniversary on Friday, and all Pete Rose the rest of the way with the number retirement and gala and induction Sunday. I think that will be our real peak weekend, if there is one, after Opening Day. The All-Star thing was fantastic. The city stepped up. It was amazing. We could not be more proud of how that went down and for all the people who helped us do that, including Major League Baseball. It's exciting to have a gala year that we roll into. We're ready for a big weekend. Fans are ready. It's been so long that we've waited to do something like that for Pete. We're excited about that. It should be a fun season. I think this team is going to be better than people think.
MLB.com: The Reds have been pretty upfront that this is a year of transition. How do you deliver that message but also a message to get people to come to the ballpark?
Castellini: You have to be realistic, and at the same time, you have to be positive. What's fun about young guys coming up is they are young and they are hungry and they want to play. The competition amongst the guys is good. They play better that way. I think it's going to be an exciting team to watch. The big focus is playing the game the right way and being in games. When you are in games the whole way, the fans are engaged. It's exciting to watch, and I look forward to that.
MLB.com: Besides the view level, is there anything else new for fans to look forward to at the ballpark this season?
Castellini: We are redoing our triple-play party suites, the ones down the third-base line that are above the suite level, above the Machine Room. We're opening up the glass wall so that will be a better experience. That's been a really popular group area for us. Those are the main projects going on in the upper levels, on the third-base side.
MLB.com: You recently went on the road for Reds Caravan. Aside from what's happening on the field, what has been the biggest feedback to you about the fan experiences of going to Reds games?
Castellini: A lot of feedback has been how good the All-Star Game was and the experience for those who got to participate in it. Even those who saw it on TV were impressed by that. I had one fan who asked about keeping the Fan Zone activities open later. We said, "No problem, we'll do that." Mostly, it's a lot of compliments about the experience last season, and there's still a lot of positive in Reds Country. We got a lot of questions about trades that each route handled, as expected. I've got my own kids asking me about trades. That's part of the game. I would say, overall, the mood was still positive. The crowds were good. There's still a lot of good spirit in Reds Country.
MLB.com: Are you worried about keeping fans' interest if the team doesn't perform well?
Castellini: Absolutely. We sell half of our tickets before the season starts. It's one of those things where weather, how the team is doing and the opponents are all a factor in individual tickets and single-game sales. I'm always worried about that. This year is no different than any other year. Rain can wash out a good crowd just like a bad streak. You have to be worried about that kind of thing in any given year. But we continue to do what we're doing -- sell the great time, the family value experience, and we'll put a little emphasis on that younger generation of crowd this year and see how we can do there.