Aaron Green / Lantern reporter
Dime-A-Dog Night began as an idea to boost attendance for the Columbus Clippers. More than three decades later, the promotion has stuck and has become a local tradition that is as much a part of the city as the team it was created for.
Fans got to enjoy Dime-A-Dog night Monday at Huntington Park when the Clippers hosted the Indianapolis Indians, and it won’t be the last chance to enjoy 10-cent hot dogs this year, either.
“It’s kind of like the ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show,'” said Clippers president and general manager Ken Schnacke. “It has a cult-like following and people just want to come and be a part of it.”
First held on May 23, 1977, in Cooper Stadium as “10-cent Hot Dog Night,” Dime-A-Dog Nights have become some of the most anticipated games of the season, and they are usually the highest attended games of the year, said Joe Santry, Columbus Clippers media director.
“The ones in August definitely have larger crowds than the ones in April,” Santry said. “But at most Dime-A-Dogs, the stadium is at, or near capacity.”
The official attendance of Monday’s Dime-A-Dog Night at Huntington Park was 7,507. Only opening day, with an attendance of 8,576, saw more fans fill Huntington Park’s 10,100 seats through the team’s first five home games in 2012.
As a trademark of the team, Dime-A-Dog Night has solidified itself as a Columbus tradition in the last 35 years, with fans of all ages paying attention to when the Clippers played a Monday home game so they could partake in discount-priced dogs.
Scheduled for select Monday home games throughout the season, the night typically occurs about once a month.
“We’ve just always done it on Mondays,” Santry said. “It’s a little easier for fans to remember I guess.”
This year it will be even easier for fans to know when Dime-A-Dog Nights are – they’ll just have to know if the Clippers are in town on Monday.
To help celebrate Columbus’ bicentennial, the Clippers have scheduled a Dime-A-Dog Night for every Monday home game, not just the typical once a month scenario.
“It’s one of those Columbus traditions,” Santry said. “And because of that, we’ll do it every Monday.”
The change will allow fans more opportunities to participate in the tradition, Schnacke said.
“The people love it and it’s a part of Columbus’ history,” Schnacke said. “It’s a fun thing to do, so we’re going to give fans more opportunities to come out and celebrate a city tradition.”
Columbus resident Corey Zerkle said he is happy to see more Dime-A-Dog Nights this year.
“It’s a big part of Columbus,” he said. “The Clippers and Dime-A-Dog Night goes hand-in-hand and the more Dime-A-Dogs, the better.”
Zerkle, a native of Springfield, Ohio, and now a father of 12-year-old twin boys, said he remembers going to Dime-A-Dog Nights as a kid and has regularly attended the night with friends and family since he moved to Columbus 22 years ago.
“We all come out with our kids and have a good time,” he said. “We usually have a bunch come out so it’s great because it’s cheap.”
The fact that the hot dogs remained 10-cents throughout the last 35 years adds to the fascination of the night, some fans said.
“It’s great. I love it,” said Scott Kinkley, a second-year in history. “A meal at school is usually seven to eight bucks, so getting five hot dogs for 50-cents is like free.”
Kinkley said he did not attend the game solely for Dime-A-Dog Night. One of his friends was in the hot dog race, but he said he is likely to return to Huntington Park for the 10-cent hot dogs.
Chris Wiet, a fifth-year in mechanical engineering, said the night was something he enjoyed doing with his family when he was little and there was added motivation to go because hot dogs were only a dime.
“I remember being allowed to eat as many hot dogs as I wanted because they were just 10-cents,” he said.
Santry said the Clippers sell between 27,000 and 33,000 of the 10-cent hot dogs per Dime-A-Dog Night, and the record number of hot dogs sold on a night is 40,782 on Sept. 1, 2008.
That was the Clippers’ last game at Cooper Stadium, and Santry said it was the highest-attended Dime-A-Dog Night in Clippers’ history with an attendance of 16,770.
Schnacke said it has not been easy keeping the hot dogs at 10-cents through the years, but every attempt he took to raise the price failed miserably.
“Every time I tried to raise the price even a little bit to account for the rising costs, it bombed,” he said. “Fans demanded it be 10-cents, and because of our sponsors, specifically Sugardale, we’ve managed to keep it that way all these years.”
Schnacke said it is the fans who make the night special for him. Some of the most memorable nights for him were the ones he would see at Cooper Stadium walking in wearing holsters with a bottle of ketchup on one side and mustard on the other, along with fans who compete with each other to see who can eat the most hot dogs in a given night.
The Clippers have six remaining Dime-A-Dog Nights scheduled for the 2012 season. The next is on April 30. In addition to those six scheduled events, all home playoff games will be Dime-A-Dog Nights as well.