This is a part in a series of blog posts about places where a minor league baseball park could be built in various Maritime centres. I have discussed some of these in the past but I will go into farther detail in this series of posts and each proposed location will have its own post. For this post I will discuss why Susan McEachern Memorial Park is an ideal place for a minor league ballpark.
First, I would like to point out from an economic point of view, Cape Breton will likely never see a return of professional baseball. The 1939 Cape Breton Colliery League championship between Sydney and New Waterford is and will likely also be the last professional baseball game(s) involving team(s) from Cape Breton. Having said that, Sydney could host a team in a summer collegiate league in the Maritimes.
Cape Breton Regional Municipality has a long and successful history with the game of baseball. The sport has been played in the area since the early 1900’s. The aforementioned Colliery League played three seasons in the late 1930’s. In more recent times, the Glace Bay won five Canadian Little League titles from 1987 to 2003. The Sydney Sooners won back to back Nova Scotia Senior titles in 2013 and 2014. Cape Breton University has a successful (club) baseball program. The municipality just upgraded the facility this year including a FieldTurf infield. The interest is there to support a collegiate summer league team. The Maritimes has other markets where such a league could thrive.
The facility itself is located in a residential neighborhood near downtown Sydney. Of course, in Sydney everything is within a few minutes of each other. Regardless, the location works and is close to both downtown and residential areas. There’s not a lot of parking here (unless a lot has been added since Google last updated their views on Sydney on Google Earth). That is not a huge issue as 1,000 seems to be the point where successful summer league teams draw (only 65 did in 2015, out of at least a couple hundred in North America). Even with 500 fans a game would put a team in the top 100. The later would be a realistic goal for a hypothetical Cape Breton team. I am not sure what the capacity is here, but anything between 1000-1500 would be suffice (this would allow bigger crowds for certain games – holidays, rivalries, playoffs, etc). Obviously, having enough washrooms and concessions for 1000-1500 people would also be needed for this park to host such a team.
In a related note, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles were 7th (out of 18) in QMJHL attendance for the 2015-16 season. The Eagles averaged 2545 fans a game this past season. this put them 4th out of the six Maritime based teams (not surprisingly behind Halifax, Moncton & Saint John). Will be interesting to see hoe the expansion Cape Breton Highlanders do in terms of attendance this upcoming 2016-17 NBL Canada season. Giving Cape Breton sports fans something to watch over the summer months (like baseball) should be reasonably successful. The area has had no summertime teams since the 1994 Cape Breton Breakers (where the old National Basketball League folded in mid-season).
These are my thoughts on having Sydney (and McEachern Memorial Park) on hosting a high level baseball team.