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HarbourCats get the boot for the playoffs, told to leave RAP for renovations

“We do believe under the terms of our user group agreement that this is not allowable,” HarbourCats managing partner Jim Swanson said.

Mark Brennae
May 29, 2024
Sports
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

HarbourCats get the boot for the playoffs, told to leave RAP for renovations

“We do believe under the terms of our user group agreement that this is not allowable,” HarbourCats managing partner Jim Swanson said.

Mark Brennae
May 29, 2024
The HarbourCats hosting a game at RAP. Photo: LinkedIn
The HarbourCats hosting a game at RAP. Photo: LinkedIn
Sports
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

HarbourCats get the boot for the playoffs, told to leave RAP for renovations

“We do believe under the terms of our user group agreement that this is not allowable,” HarbourCats managing partner Jim Swanson said.

Mark Brennae
May 29, 2024
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HarbourCats get the boot for the playoffs, told to leave RAP for renovations
The HarbourCats hosting a game at RAP. Photo: LinkedIn

If the HarbourCats make the playoffs this season they’ll have to play their games on the road.

The city has told the West Coast League (WCL) baseball club to make way for changes to Royal Athletic Park (RAP) ahead of Touchdown Pacific, a regular-season CFL game between the BC Lions and Ottawa Redblacks to be played there Aug. 31.

“It's hard to wrap your head around,” Jim Swanson, HarbourCats managing partner, tells Capital Daily. 

“The playoffs are kind of what you work towards, right?” 

Usually, yes. The HarbourCats have made the post-season six of the last seven years, but if they make it seven of eight, they’ll do it away from the friendly confines of RAP. The HarbourCats—the stadium’s main tenants—recently were told they need to vacate by Aug. 7, the final day of the WCL regular season, to allow for a series of enhancements to the park, including the installation of a large bank of seats and new sod to cover the baseball configuration.

Told the fans last night

It was up to Swanson to break the news to fans at last night’s season ticket pickup mixer—usually an evening to enthuse about the season ahead, not to lament the loss of exciting playoff games later this summer. 

“A mix of upset, mix of disappointment, mix of resolve, and a mix of surprise—’How can they do this to you?’” is how he described their reaction. 

“We actually feel that we should have been able to let people know earlier,” Swanson said. “There's stakeholders, there's fans, there's people that invest their summers into this.”

Swanson said the decision could negatively affect the teams’ branding and recruitment, and while he wouldn’t put a dollar figure on it, it’s believed missing out on home playoff dates could cost the team the equivalent of 15-20% of its annual budget.

Not quite eye-to-eye

When asked whether the city would compensate the ballclub for any lost revenues, a spokesperson responded: “The City hasn't been presented with evidence that this will result in financial losses for the HarbourCats.”

Swanson said he begs to differ. “That’s simply not true,” he tells Capital Daily. “And just on a common sense level, how anyone could suggest that there wouldn't be losses or additional costs because of this is baffling.”

In a letter released to season ticket holders last night, the HarbourCats apologized, said it was “out of our control” and called the news a “one-time occurrence.” Inquiries with the BC Lions and CFL were not returned in time for this publication.

Playing on the road, or at Nanaimo’s Serauxmen Stadium home of the WCL NightOwls—a team Swanson also manages—not only would negate home-crowd revenues, but it would also increase expenditures for transportation, hotels, staffing, and meals.

“We do believe under the terms of our user group agreement that this is not allowable,” he said.

“And I will leave it at that.” 

Relations with the city don't appear to be smooth

The email from the city said: “Over the past several months, the City has been collaborating with representatives of the BC Lions, CFL, and Victoria HarbourCats on the use of Royal Athletic Park to meet the needs of both existing programs and Touchdown Pacific.”

Again, Swanson disagrees. “We would not describe it as collaborative,” Swanson tells Capital Daily. “It was dictated to us with the least amount of good-faith communication possible.”

Swanson said there has been a lack of communication between the city and the club since Touchdown Pacific was announced Nov. 29.

He points to an incident in February when he was flabbergasted to see the city had sent a crew to dig out the infield apron to reconfigure it with cut-out bases, presumably to adhere to CFL policy not to play football on the apron.

The work was stopped and the field returned to the original configuration, but not before displacing the HarbourCats’ collegiate affiliate Victoria Golden Tide for a handful of games.

“The city didn’t need to give in on changing the infield surface, that mix of grass and red dirt has been used in a higher league, the NFL, for decades and it serves the purpose for all,” Swanson said.

Swanson fears long-term effects for team

Swanson said not hosting the playoffs will impact player recruitment. “For them to know that they make the playoffs they have to just go on more road trips, versus playing in front of the home fans who supported them so well, that 100% could impact the mindset of the athletes and the coaches.”

And he worries it may affect the organization’s branding. “There's just an anticipation of the playoffs you cannot replicate. You know, anybody in sports understands that.”

The city’s email said: “Operational decisions relating to the planning and temporary changes to the stadium do not involve City Council and are left to staff to work through.” That’s another thing Swanson sees differently. 

“I don't think staff is driving this vehicle,” Swanson said.

The HarbourCats are anticipating a loud response from fans so they’ve asked all feedback be sent to “playoffs2024@harbourcats.com” from which the team would share with the city.

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