By Brendan Wright
A trip to Royal Athletic Park, home of the Victoria HarbourCats, is about more than just baseball. It’s about community, relationship building and having fun.
This is echoed by HarbourCats managing partner Jim Swanson’s belief that everybody in Victoria should see at least one game a year. Jim and his team have worked tirelessly to make the HarbourCats an attractive prospect, not just to businesses and players, but to fans too.
Jim is aiming to make the team the best in the division. As it stands, it looks like he’s very close to achieving that. HarbourCats have already clinched their playoff spot and were first-half champions in the North Division of the West Coast League (WCL).
While the performance on the field this season has been excellent, it’s the work that Jim and his team are doing behind the scenes that is perhaps most impressive. During the CPRS-VI production tour on Wednesday, July 20, 2016, he spoke of the importance of knowing your audience to be successful in public relations and marketing.
It’s obvious the team have done their research. Attendance has been steadily rising over the past few seasons, and the HarbourCats now hold attendance records across both a season and at an individual game.
An entrepreneurial spirit runs through what they do, from converting a milk truck into a media van for live-streaming the games to partnering with Spinnakers to produce a “HarbourCats Ale“. It takes meticulous planning – right down to the position of the food trucks to enable fans to watch the game while they wait in line – and working closely with local partners, but the reward is a well-run, welcoming experience.
There’s a great community spirit around the HarbourCats. The players represent the city both on and off the field, and the fans are vocal in their support. Tradition sits comfortably alongside innovation, with the ceremonial first pitch and 7th inning stretch accompanied by “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” calling back to past days.
It was my first baseball game, but it certainly won’t be my last. Sitting on the bleachers with the sun going down and the crack of the bat echoing around the Royal Athletic Park, there was nowhere I would rather have been.
More than 35 public relations students and practitioners participated in CPRS-VI Production Crawl with the Victoria HarbourCats. Similar to our popular Media Crawl, the Production Crawl was a pre-game tour of the HarbourCats. The personalized tour – with managing partner and former journalist Jim Swanson – covered areas such as their live stream broadcasts, media partners, community sponsors, and community campaigns.
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Update 8/18/2016: Our congrats to Jim Swanson for being named WCL Executive of the Year. Thanks to Jim, the HarbourCats developed strong ties in the community and have earned a top-notch reputation among baseball circles. In 2016 the HarbourCats welcomed 60,466 fans through the gates of Royal Athletic Park in the regular season, averaging 2,239 fans per game – breaking franchise and league records.