With the great weather we have been experiencing this summer (with some exceptions, notably Hurricane Arthur), makes a sports fan yearn for a local summertime sports franchise(s) here in the Maritimes. I believe minor league baseball is best to fill in that gap. In the past, I have blogged about a Maritime based college summer league being the best option. Seeing it’s the end of July, most of these leagues across North American are at the end (or almost at the end) of their regular seasons. There is still more than a month left in summer vacation for the schools; so it just seems too early to be ending a baseball season. The minors usually play to the Labour Day weekend. This is why I have since changed my mind and believe independent pro ball is the best option for the Maritimes (other reasons are highlighted in a previous blog).
Currently, the CanAm League, the closest league and hense the most realistic league to come to the Maritimes is currently averaging 2181 fans per game, I believe with the right ownership and promotion there is no reason to think that teams in Halifax and Moncton cannot average this. For the record the top team is Rockland with 3156 fans per game and the bottom team is Trois-Rivires at 1347 a game.
Moncton has the best baseball field east of Quebec City with Kiwanis Park. The park holds 3500 people and offers a modern drainage system, turf infield, dressing rooms and other modern amenities. The amount of work needed to accommodate a pro team would be minimal (private boxes, expanded concessions). The biggest hurdle to placing a team here would be scheduling around the Moncton Mets, Hub City Brewers and other local teams.
Halifax, on the other hand, has no such facility and given that no pro team has played in the city before nobody is going to built one until such an operation is proven. To start out a Halifax based team could play out of a renovated ball field at the Mainland North Common. The field itself is well-kept but lacks the facilities that a pro team would need to survive. In order to become a viable facility for even low-level pro ball the facility needs the following:
– clubhouses for both home and away teams plus the umpires
– more seating (currently holds less than 1000)
– expanded concession area to meet the demand of increased crowds
– expanded press box to meet the needs of pro team
– private boxes
– last but not least, running water
The good news is there is plenty of room for such expansion around the field (especially in the outfield and on the first base line) to add the needed infrastructure. I have no idea what the costs would be other than it would be significantly cheaper than building anew.
The location is not the best in Halifax, but it can also work to the teams advantage if properly addressed. The field is located in the Clayton Park area of Halifax, just off the 102. This provides easy access to games especially for those coming out-of-town. As Halifax is approaching 400,000 population, out of towners are not a necessity at building a successful franchise, but do help at establishing the brand across the region. As it is off the highway it is easy to access to those from within HRM as well (somewhat out-of-the-way for those from Dartmouth/Cole Harbour, but not bad either). Parking is available at the Canada Games Centre, Soccer Nova Scotia and Halifax West High School. If those locations are busy game nights have the potential to cause parking problem. Like I said in the previous paragraph, there’s still plenty of room in the area for development and such upgrades could involve adding parking spots. Traffic going in and out of the area is another potential problem, but won’t be any worse than downtown after an event at the Metro Centre aka Scotiabank Centre.
If the team becomes an East Coast version of the Winnipeg Goldeyes, then exploring the possibly of a new park (preferably downtown or somewhere close) would become a viable option. If the team(s) bleed money, then a summer collegiate league can act as a Plan B for both Halifax and Moncton. As it would keep the franchises around for their fans, while minimizing expenses for the franchise owners. If done correctly, the Maritimes is a ripe area for professional baseball and can be successful for years to come.