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- A Major League Baseball franchise has sent delegations on fact-finding missions to Vancouver twice in the last two years, including one visit to determine the viability of hosting games at B.C. Place Stadium in the event of a structural emergency with its home venue.
- The Arizona Diamondbacks visited the Canadian city in 2018 amid concerns over the state of repairs at Chase Field, in Phoenix. Vancouver was on a list of a half-dozen potential (temporary) homes the team had received from MLB headquarters.
- “While working at Major League Baseball, I provided the team with numerous possibilities, including Vancouver,” Joe Garagiola Jr., who is now special advisor to the Diamondbacks’ chief executive, said in a written statement to The Athletic. “Club executives visited there to determine the reality of making it a contingency plan.”
- According to a government official in British Columbia who requested anonymity, the visitors received a walking tour of the stadium and were shown archival photographs from baseball games played within its walls. It opened in 1983 and has hosted everything from the Grey Cup to the Olympics to the Pope.
- The domed stadium is the full-time home of the B.C. Lions (CFL) and Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS).
- It has also hosted the Blue Jays, who were part of an exhibition series in 1994, along with the Mariners, the Rockies and the not-yet-departed Montreal Expos. (A decade earlier, just before another preseason series, Blue Jays third baseman Garth Iorg looked around the stadium and told the Globe and Mail, “it’s fresh-looking — and there’s not a bad seat anywhere, is there?”)
- Today, the stadium can accommodate about 55,000 spectators.
- The Diamondbacks have a lease to play at Chase Field, but the team has also been the subject of relocation speculation. A report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal last summer said officials in Henderson, Nev., had engaged in at least preliminary discussions with the Diamondbacks over several months in 2018.
- It has been reported the team has not sought permission from MLB to discuss relocation with any other cities.
- Derrick Hall, the team’s chief executive, told Forbes earlier this month the Diamondbacks were going to “do everything we can to stay at Chase Field,” which opened 22 years ago. Maricopa County owns the stadium, but the team controls the venue, including the ability to book events such as concerts.
- That is why the second delegation arrived in Vancouver last summer: They attended a Mumford & Sons concert at BC Place Stadium. In his written statement, Garagiola said the visit was borne out of the “newly-established relationships and respect for their operating standards and reputation.”
- Bart Given is managing director with TORQUE Strategies, a marketing agency that has worked with major national sports organizations. He is also a former assistant general manager with the Blue Jays, and he was a point of contact when the Diamondbacks ventured north.
- “We’re ready for Major League Baseball in Vancouver,” Given said. “I think it’s time to start that conversation and to be loud and proud about it.”
- The NBA expanded to Vancouver in 1994, awarding a team that would become known as the Grizzlies, starting play the same season as the Raptors debuted in Toronto. The Grizzlies lasted only six seasons in Vancouver, marred by chronic mismanagement that helped sink attendance.
- “I’ll admit that, in the past, when I’ve been asked this question about expansion in baseball, that I’ve been skeptical on it,” said Given. “I’ve been probably one that’s been downplaying the story. But since these conversations have started and I’ve looked a little bit closer at the numbers, and done some more due diligence, I think it’s a viable option.”
- The city already has a baseball team. The Vancouver Canadians are a Class A short-season affiliate of the Blue Jays, playing out of Nat Bailey Stadium, which holds about 6,400 fans. Last season the team announced it averaged a crowd of 6,210 per game.
- Rob Manfred, the MLB commissioner, drew renewed attention to the city’s baseball status during a TV appearance in the U.S. two years ago. He told Fox Sports 1 expanding to 32 teams would be “great for our sport,” and listed seven potential destinations.
- “Portland, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Nashville in the United States, certainly Montreal, maybe Vancouver, in Canada,” he told the network. “We think there’s places in Mexico we could go over the long haul.”
- Marc Ganis is president of Sportscorp and a well-known sports consultant. He said teams that control their own venues are known to scout other buildings “on a fairly regular basis,” picking up tips on how to attract or stage events outside the realm of sports.
- That does not mean the visits should be discounted.
- “Vancouver is considered a very attractive location,” Ganis said.
- Its economy is strong, he said, and its proximity to Seattle might help draw extra consideration, given the early success that city has found with its NHL expansion team.
- A group in Vancouver would have several more important boxes to tick off, Ganis said, with a list that includes a wealthy owner, a lucrative television contract and a strong sense of fan avidity.
- “The first thing is that the government leaders need to come up with a stadium plan,” Ganis said. “Without a stadium plan, nothing else works. That’s been Toronto’s big drawback as it relates to the NFL.
- “They’ve been told multiple times — including the Super Bowl press conference, by (NFL commissioner Roger) Goodell — the first step is you’ve got to have a first-class stadium plan.”
- Baseball has not expanded since 1998 when the Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Rays embarked on their debut seasons.
- Given, who parted ways with the Blue Jays a decade ago, said he wants to advocate for Vancouver’s potential as a big-league baseball market.
- “The population is already following baseball at a high level,” he said. “About 43 percent of the province is already engaging with Major League Baseball on an annual basis. A large portion of those are Jays fans, but there are some others following teams across Major League Baseball.”
- On their second visit to Vancouver, last year, delegates from Arizona were offered a tour of Nat Bailey Stadium. They are believed to have politely declined the offer, with the concert remaining focus of the trip. They also stayed at a downtown hotel, within walking distance of B.C. Place Stadium.
- “The representatives walked away with a genuine love for this city and what it could be,” Given said. “The beauty of this marketplace was certainly appealing to them.”
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