A hot topic in the Maritimes for at least 30 years, is the idea of bring a CFL franchise to the region. Traditionally, Halifax has been mentioned as the desired destination for the league. But, Moncton has taken the lead so to speak in the race for the mythical Atlantic CFL franchise with their hosting of “Touchdown Atlantic” for 3 of the last 4 seasons.
But, one thing that is almost never brought up is the idea of bring baseball to the region. From the last hockey game in April/May (depending on the success of local QMJHL/MHL teams), and the bringing of QMJHL & AUS football training camps in mid-August there is little in the way of live sporting events in the region. The local auto racing series (in particular, the IWK 250) is the only popular spectator sport in the region during these months. The perfect way to fill this void is baseball.
Minor league baseball (for the purposes of this blog this includes the independent leagues & summer college leagues) is the perfect fit. The season begins (depending on the league) anywhere from early April until mid-June and lasts until September. Covers most, if not the entire “dead time” for sports in the region. The CFL, starts in late June and goes until late November, so there is more of an overlap with other sports on the local sporting calendar.
On a related note, the increased number of games in baseball means you get more use out of the ballparks. More games means more home games, the exact number of such depends on factors like the league, double-headers, rainouts, etc. A CFL stadium will be used for at most, 20 stadium worthy events a year. By stadium worthy I mean events that are too big for existing facilities, so a high school football game that draws 1000 people to this mythical stadium does not count. Stadium worthy events would be one CFL preseason game, nine regular season games, probably two or three concerts (at best) during the summer, maybe a soccer game or two played by either the national team or European club teams. Plus one or two miscellaneous events (Vanier Cups, rugby, outdoor QMJHL games and alike). If the CFL team is good they would host no more than one playoff game under the current playoff format. Plus, you would (on average) have one Grey Cup a decade. A 2000-10000 seat ballpark (again depending on the level of play and the market) could some events that would draw relatively poorly in a 25000 seat football stadium (minor league soccer for instance). Granted, mega concerts would be too big for such a park, but that’s what Magnetic Hill is for in Moncton.
Baseball is also played virtually everyday, compared to one game a week (usually on a weekend), for football. While football takes less time commitment to support a franchise, it also causes concerns to the ticket buying public if games coincide with work, school, time at the cottage, and other personal commitments. Especially for those who work irregular schedules. With baseball being played everyday almost, people can attend the games they can and it’s less of a big deal if they miss a game here and there. People who are busy during the week can go games on the weekend, those who work or are at the cottage or campground on the weekend can attend weekday games. More scheduling balance than with football.
Cost is also a huge factor. The Blue Bombers new stadium, Investor’s Group Field, cost an estimated $200 million to build (according to my good friend Wick E. Pedia). On the other hand, new AAA stadiums in El Paso and Charlotte have cost approximately $50 million to build, and that’s for AAA (the highest level of the minors), a lower league will likely mean a lower cost ballpark. Expanding an existing ball field like Kiwanis Park in Moncton, would cost even less as it would save the money to build the actual ball field. Money would only have to build more stands, concession areas, press box and clubhouses as most local senior level ballparks lack these. In other words, you can build at least four minor league venues (and probably more as we won’t need four AAA caliber ballparks in the Maritimes) for the same price it takes to build a CFL stadium. The advantage to this is more communities benefit from having an additional sports franchise in their city and (as mentioned earlier) baseball plays more games than football so their are more economic benefits to having baseball.
All in all, a case can be made that baseball is better (at least economically) for summertime spectator sport in the Maritimes than the oft-talked about possibility of having the CFL here.