In the heart of Sparks’ industrial area located on Meredith Way, you’ll find a place to get some exercise and grab lunch- Tommy’s Grand Stand batting cages. Around since 2002, Tommy Newell and his wife bought the business from Carol and Skender Brame when it was located at the Coconut Bowl and moved it over to a 17,000 square foot space.
“If I was to go out to search for a location today, it would be near impossible. I wouldn’t be able to open a restaurant in an industrial area,” Newell said. He noted that it’s convenient to be near Scheels and not have to pay really high rent.
When the batting cages moved from the Coconut Bowl to Meredith Way, they also doubled the size of their space and were able to offer more features besides the batting cages. “We had to add some things; we created an environment here with the arcade and the bar that appeals to people of all ages,” Newell says.
“We’re near the center of town, it’s cheaper and we’re in a nice area. We get a good lunch crowd that doesn’t want to spend 15-20 minutes on their break driving somewhere to eat,” Newell added. He said that they provide up to 100 lunches per day.
But as a seasonal business, Tommy’s Grand Stand has highs and lows with year-round expenditures in employee wages and insurance. “I don’t know what we’re going to do if [Nevada] goes to a $15 minimum wage,” Newell says. Since a lot of students and younger people don’t commonly make a career at the batting cages, the biggest challenge is keeping up with minimum wage increases and employees around. “We tried to make up for [the last minimum wage increase] by raising the prices of the tokens, but then the minimum wage changed to that anyways. It may be small amounts, but with five employees it makes a big difference.”
In talking about always trying to improve their service, Newell says, “We’ve received a lot of reviews on Yelp and have been very blessed on that”. Although, Newell admitted that Tommy’s Grand Stand received one bad review on Yelp when a group of 20-30 businessmen came in on their lunch break without notice and they happened to be short-staffed.
“But I like that it’s not all fluff; I embrace the bad reviews,” Newell said. “In a lot of ways I’ve handpicked some of my crowd,” which he says is everyone from the warehouse guy making little money to big casino executives.
Since travel ball has gotten more popular with kids in the sport, Tommy’s Grand Stand is one of the only public batting cage facilities in the Reno/Tahoe area that caters to everyone else besides the Little Leaguers. There are a few academies and private practice cages, but nothing that the average adult softball player can walk in and use.
“When I played ball it was such a family-type thing,” Newell says. “We still try to keep it simple and recreational.”
Newell says that 60 percent of his customers are adult softball players. “Guys will buy five tokens and a pitcher of beer and they don’t even hit one round; they just want to talk and hang out,” Newell says.
As a seasonal business, Tommy’s Grand Stand is its busiest February-May. “In early fall we break even and in the winter we lose money,” Newell added. He says that the winter allows them to think about what changes they want to make and how to improve.
“For the amount of people we get who are big into softball, we’re happy where our business is now. We keep it low key and find ways to improve,” Newell said.