In this post, I will perform a SWOT analysis on having minor league baseball in the Maritimes. A SWOT analysis is short for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. I will comment on each item and explain how/why I categorized it where I did.
Many of these thoughts have been mentioned in previous blogs. I will put them all (and some new thoughts) in one place.
- Baseball is a popular sport in Canada. This is even more so when the Blue Jays are winning. Blue Jays games draw millions of viewers on television and this past season they lead the American League in attendance. Having teams (either be Can-Am or summer college) in the area will give ball clubs of our own to support. As mentioned in an old post, would be interesting to see how a Portland Sea Dogs vs. New Hampshire Fisher Cats series would far here. Keeping in mind the Red Sox and Blue Jays are easily the two most popular MLB teams in the area.
- Baseball is a safe sport to play. Don’t laugh at this. With all the talk over CTE and other dangers of football, the very future of Canadian and American football is in doubt. Instead of forking over millions of dollars to build a CFL stadium in Halifax (or Moncton), it would arguably be wiser to build minor league ballparks as baseball will survive deep into the future and there’s no guarantee football will.
- Regional rivalries. There is already rivalries between major Maritime centres in other sports. Baseball will only build on the existing rivalries between Halifax, Moncton, Sydney, etc that exist in hockey and basketball.
- Can-Am League is a stable organization. The league has been around in some form since 1995. Unlike most independent baseball leagues it isn’t a fly by night operation.
- Summer college baseball is accessible. There is no need for fancy stadiums are this level and many teams at this level use community fields that are comparable to what’s already in the region. Also, to maintain their NCAA/NAIA/junior college eligibility the players are not paid (an obvious money saver).
- Professional baseball hasn’t been played in the Maritimes since the outbreak of World War II. In other words, there’s little tradition when it comes to professional baseball in the Atlantic provinces. On a related note, there is no varsity baseball at the university level in the region (club teams yes, but no AUS baseball). There’s little to no data on how a professional baseball team would draw anywhere in Atlantic Canada.
- Maritimers aren’t used to supporting a team that plays everyday. The QMJHL plays 68 games over six months, the NBL Canada plays 40 over four months. This works out to about five or six home games a month in both leagues. Using the Can-Am League as an example, they play roughly 100 games over three and a half months. This is about 14 home games a month. Would oversupply of product lead to small crowds?
- Lack of facilities. The only park that’s even semi ready for professional baseball is Kiwanis Park in Moncton. Other cities will have to either upgrade existing ballparks or build new ones. Upgrades would be minimal for a Maritime based summer college league but would need to be extensive for professional baseball. Would Mainland North Common (Halifax), Royals Field (Fredericton), St. Patrick’s Park (St. John’s) or parks in other cities be viable candidates for upgrading to pro standards? I don’t know.
- Economy and elderly population. Not much I can add as everybody knows about our aging and shrinking population. The good news is the major centres like Halifax, St. John’s and the three big New Brunswick centres are growing and/or attracting younger populations. These are where potential franchises would be located.
- Partnerships with existing teams in the region. Many teams in the QMJHL and NBL Canada are owned by successful business people. Examples are the Moncton Wildcats (the Irvings), the Saint John Sea Dogs (the McCains), Island Storm (Duncan Shaw) and Halifax Hurricanes (an ensemble cast of local business people). If local QMJHL or NBL owners also had baseball teams, there could be a synergy between the clubs that would help with marketing and other business operations.
- Sports to watch during the summer. From the last hockey or basketball game in April/May/June (depending on success of teams within a certain market) and the start of hockey season in September, there is little in the way of sports for Maritimers to watch. Baseball could fill this void.
- Baseball is an outdoor sport. During our short summers, people enjoy being outdoors. An advantage to baseball (or soccer) is an opportunity to watch sports in our great summer weather. This is why I think a summer NBL isn’t a good idea as who wants to be inside on a nice summer evening? But as will be discussed in the next category, good weather is a double-edged sword.
- The chance to offer something different to players. The Martimes are virgin territory for high level baseball in North America. The last professional league was the Cape Breton Colliery League in 1939 and last summer college league was the Halifax and District League in 1959. This gives the owners of hypothetical baseball teams the chance to start fresh and create traditions of their own. The opportunity to start something new may inspire some players to come this way.
- Broadcasting opportunities. I am sure that both Eastlink (Friday Night Hockey) and Bell Aliant TV (AUS) would like to extend their sports schedule into the summer months. Potential teams in the region could collect some coin from them in broadcasting rights. There are also local radio deals that would bring in more exposure. Both companies also are in the Internet business, this should help with the streaming of games online.
- Sponsorships. Baseball teams in the region would provide another outlet for local companies to advertise. Either it be on TV, radio or at the ballpark. Sponsors are an important revenue stream for minor league franchises in all sports.
- Competition from QMJHL and NBL Canada teams. When it comes to single game sales, winter sports like hockey and basketball offer little competition for the entertainment dollar. But in the big picture, these teams will be competing for the same season ticket and corporate dollars. Since there are only so many dollars going around, they would be competitors from this perspective.
- Nice summer weather. Summer is short, people want to be out and enjoy it. Would this include watching baseball games?
- Competition from other leagues. There at least seven independent baseball leagues that are competing for talent. There are 40 (ballpark figure) summer college leagues fighting for talent. Any new team has to recruit players against this competition.
There you have it. This was a brief breakdown of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats with potential minor league teams in the region. I probably either forgot or didn’t think of a few. These will be added later.