Just because baseball lacks popularity in the city – look no further than the success of the Vancouver Canadians in the single short season and the number of Toronto Blue Jays fans taking the road trip Seattle every year to have proof.
Perhaps the idea that an MLB team would choose to play in Vancouver in the short term seemed too far-fetched because history was quickly forgotten.
But maybe it shouldn’t have been.
According to Bart Given, CEO of TORQUE Strategies, the Diamondbacks’ visit was not just for the unexpected due to problems with the wobbly retractable roof of Chase Field.
“I can confirm that the Diamondbacks have visited [Vancouver] to watch the city and the stadium, “Given Given told Daily Hive. “There have been a few visits to talk about the viability of Vancouver as a place of emergency for them, but of course there has been a broader discussion about the city’s long-term viability for Major League Baseball.”
Given is particularly qualified to speak on this subject, as a former vice president of baseball operations and assistant general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, who now calls Vancouver home. TORQUE Strategies helped organize Canada Sevens rugby union and the 2019 World Junior Hockey Championships in Vancouver.
“There has been no formal conversation with the Diamondbacks or any other team about moving here, nor has there been any formal conversation with MLB regarding the expansion,” said Given. “But the subject has certainly been approached in different ways. “
The Diamondbacks argue that their first visit was simply for short-term emergency planning, while their second trip to Vancouver last August was to see how BC Place hosted a Mumford & Sons concert.
“Shortly after the D-backs received control of their playing field in 2018, the new financial and operational burdens associated with it motivated the team to explore other sites to temporarily play in the event of catastrophic incident associated with the facility, ”said Joe Garagiola. Jr, Special Assistant to the President and CEO of Diamondbacks, in a statement provided to Daily Hive.
“Working in Major League Baseball, I have offered the team many opportunities, including in Vancouver. Club leaders went there to determine the reality of making it an emergency plan. Subsequently, the team also became the booking agent for non-baseball events at Chase Field, and due to newly established relationships and respect for their operating standards and reputation, the leaders made a another trip to help plan and perform a concert at BC Place. . “
Arizona stadium issues
Arizona has no problem with attendance, averaging 26,364 fans per game last season, placing them 17th out of 30 MLB teams.
But they have a stadium problem, which has made the Diamondbacks the subject of relocation rumors.
Chase Field is only 22, but his retractable roof is cause for concern, a feature necessary due to the heat of Arizona. the roof stuck half open before the Diamondbacks’ home opening last year.
“Any team that has a dome, especially in a harsh weather atmosphere, should have at least a backup plan,” Diamondbacks president and CEO Derrick Hall told Arizona Sports radio. “I mean, if that [Chase Field] the roof won’t close in mid-summer, we can’t play here. Probably, the union would not allow it, we would not allow it. “
The Diamondbacks wanted to break their lease with Maricopa County, according to Arizona Sports, after the county refused to pay $ 187 million in repairs and upgrades to Chase Field. Instead, the two sides settled in, entrusting the team with the management of stadium operations in May 2018.
“We are looking downtown now and finally we will be looking around Maricopa County again to see what we have to compare it to, but we have no plans to play anywhere other than Arizona,” added Hall.
MLB provided the Diamondbacks with a list of stadiums capable of hosting games in an emergency, and Vancouver was on that list.
The Diamondbacks have also held “secret talks” on relocation to Las Vegas in the past, according to a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
While nothing seems imminent in any way, the situation at least deserves to be watched with regard to Vancouver being considered a potential MLB city, by Arizona or by anyone else.
Vancouver on the MLB radar
This is not the first time that Vancouver has been presented as a possible landing place for an MLB team. In July 2018, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred mentioned six cities by name with reference to future expansion.
“We have a real list of cities that I think are not only interested in baseball, but viable in terms of baseball. Places like Portland, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Nashville… Definitely Montreal, maybe Vancouver, ”said Manfred, who also mentioned Mexico as a possibility.
The return of an NBA franchise to Vancouver is more talked about among city sports fans, but MLB seems to be the more realistic option.
“Whether it is offshoring or expanding, Vancouver is on the radar,” said Given, adding that he believed the value of the Diamondbacks franchise would increase if it moved to Vancouver.
“All else being equal, I think the team would like to stay [in Arizona], but all things are not equal. And if it’s moving, I would say Vancouver is the most attractive option. “
No MLB team has moved since the Montreal Expos moved to Washington in 2004, but there are a few franchises that appear to be at risk – such as the Miami Marlins, who averaged 10,016 fans in games at home last season, or the Tampa Bay Rays, who only convinced 14,734 fans per game to see them play at Tropicana Field.
Baseball at BC Place
Built in 1983, BC Place was designed with the potential to one day host an MLB team.
BC Place even hosted a series of MLB shows in 1994, with the participation of the Toronto Blue Jays, Montreal Expos, Seattle Mariners and Colorado Rockies. It wasn’t an ideal baseball stadium – Edgar Martinez tore his left hock tendon due to “soft dirt from the inside field” and pop flies were hard to track against the white inflatable roof.
Despite major renovations that included a new retractable roof installed in 2011, BC Place is still far from an ideal MLB location, but it could be good enough to get the job done.
The Diamondbacks seemed pretty happy anyway.
” [Diamondbacks officials] love [Vancouver] himself. They were won over to the city, “said Given. “They weren’t intimidated by the changes necessary to turn the stadium into a baseball park like I thought. “
Granted, having a magnificent modern stadium with a fully retractable roof like the Seattle Mariners would be ideal, although finding someone to spend the money in Vancouver is likely unrealistic. Perhaps further renovations could be made to BC Place to make it more suitable as an MLB playground.
The new dashboard should be raised or moved to begin with. Its 54,500-seat capacity would make it the second largest stadium in the Major League Baseball. In other words, it’s too big, but changes could be made to alleviate this problem.
Seats could be removed, while more public and social spaces with field views could be installed. It wouldn’t be cheap, but it would be a lot more profitable than building a new stadium from scratch.
The popularity of baseball in Vancouver
Vancouver Canadians again led short-lived Northwest League Single-A last season last season, drawing 6,210 fans per game at Nat Bailey’s 6,500-seat stadium – near the Miami Marlins, it is said by the way.
The Blue Jays’ annual road trip to Seattle is a unique scene in North America, as Canadians feel like a home game for the Jays in an American city more than 3000 kilometers from Toronto.
In addition, there is data to support the popularity of the sport in Vancouver.
“We have done research with IMI, a world-renowned research company, to take a closer look at the viability and fan base of baseball in Vancouver,” said Given. “What we found was quite revealing. Forty-five percent of British Columbia residents already follow Major League Baseball, which is pretty compelling when you consider we don’t have a team. “
“There are over a million people in the Lower Mainland who follow the Major League Baseball every year … They buy merchandise, they buy tickets, they watch games. They are active followers. “
TORQUE research also shows that 53% of British Columbia residents believe that Vancouver should have an MLB team, and 73% of sports fans would like to see a team in Vancouver.
There are still a lot of hurdles to overcome for Vancouver before adding an MLB team, including finding a deep-pocket owner ready to check. But the momentum is accelerating, and it’s certainly not as far-fetched as some people thought.