BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It's now been one year since we saw the first pitch at MGM Park. It cost more than $35 million to build the stadium with the promise it would help downtown businesses.
When the Biloxi Shuckers are in town on a weekend night, it's not hard to find shirts with the teams logo at Sal & Mookies. For fans like Brandon Webb it's become a tradition to go out before the games.
"We came to Biloxi downtown for the atmosphere and comradery and it's convenient to walk to the game," said Webb.
At the Fillin' Station, Manager Hiram McCall estimates his business increases 10 to 15% on game nights.
"It's bringing more people to downtown, people who wouldn't normally be down here will come down in an afternoon before the baseball game," said McCall
One of the biggest nights Sal & Mookies has had thanks to the stadium is when Mississippi State played, drawing more than 4,000 fans. Part-owner Bruce Lacey said he'd like to see more college games like that and he can tell a difference anytime something's happening at MGM Park.
"Also the high school games that they played down there this spring were awesome because people enjoyed coming over here and then going over to the game," said Lacey.
But just down the street from the stadium at Tasty Tails, owner Tai Nguyen said he sees people walking past his restaurant all the time going to the games. However he said they rarely stop in for his seafood specialties, even though he's located right next door to the Shuckers team store.
"Before I put the restaurant here we knew that the baseball stadium was coming and we thought that wow they're going to bring in more tourism and more people are going to be here and probably pack out the restaurant, but it wasn't the case," said Nguyen.
Nguyen has a theory for why baseball fans wouldn't want to grab a bite to eat before or a drink after the game.
"There's food at the stadium, they eat and drink there," said Nguyen. "Baseball games are normally so long that by the time the game is done they are so exhausted they're just ready to go home."
While at the Fillin' Station, McCall is satisfied with the steady growth he's seen.
"I think a lot of people were expecting this big huge explosion and of course that's not what you're going to get," said McCall. "We do have a lot of regulars that do come in before and after games."
Naturally the more people attending the games would lead to more people visiting the businesses. Through the first two months of the season, the Shuckers are averaging just over 2,500 fans a game. That ranks eighth in the ten team Southern League.