Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
April 21, 2015, Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Victoria HarbourCats unveiled a new local ownership group Tuesday at a media conference at Royal Athletic Park and it includes a number of faces that will be familiar to Victoria sports fans including Wilson’s Transportation CEO John Wilson and HarbourCats General Manager Jim Swanson.
Two members of the HarbourCats new ownership group, GM and now Vice President Baseball Jim Swanson (left) and Vice President Business John Wilson (right) model the new HarbourCats road jerseys that will be worn this season (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Wilson and Swanson have established Shwing Batter Investment Group, who, subject to West Coast League approval, now take over team ownership from Matthew Stout and Bhootan LLC, the individual and company that inherited the team from original owner John McLean at the end of last season.
Wilson and Swanson are joined in the new ownership group with two additional partners, Ken Swanson and Rich Harder, who both bring business and baseball expertise to the fold. Ken Swanson, who is from Burnaby, is Jim’s brother and is a managing partner with Murrick Insurance Services in downtown Vancouver, while Harder is a land owner / manager in New Westminster and a long-time member of the New Westminster Little League Baseball Association.
Wilson Transportation CEO John Wilson adds the HarbourCats to his local stable of amateur sports teams that also include Junior hockey’s Peninsula Panthers and Victoria Grizzlies (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
In the new ownership structure, Ken Swanson will serve as team President, with Wilson as Vice President, Business. Harder will serve as Treasurer and Jim Swanson will remain as General Manager, but also add Vice President, Baseball to his title. Jim Swanson will be designated to represent the HarbourCats on the board of the West Coast League, although all four members will be involved in major operational and league voting direction.
“I am very proud to be walking beside the rest of the new partners,” said Jim Swanson. “This is a great group and the right group for Victoria’s baseball future. John Wilson is fantastic and to walk side by side with my brother is pretty cool. Rich Harder is a great man and has known my brother and I for years. I know I have the support locally and at a moment’s notice from John, Rich or Ken to operate this business the proper way and to put the right people and programs in place to really elevate the team to the next level.”
John Wilson (left) and Jim Swanson (right), along with Ken Swanson and Rich Harder (who were not present Tuesday) have formed Shwing Batter Investment Group that will take over ownership from Matthew Stoudt and Bhootan LLC (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Swanson also added that it now allows him to run things without the turmoil and inherent questions that surrounded the ownership issue over the past year. “I always saw myself as an owner when I got here and that is how I ran things over the past year, safeguarding the brand, the financal aspects, the community goodwill and support, so this new deal kind of cements that. It’s important for fans to know that this team is not going anywhere. The team is strong, the league is stable and not going away, the business model works and works well for this community, we now have a strong local ownership group and we look forward to June July and August when things will get busy.”
Wilson, who is also involved in the ownership groups of the Peninsula Panthers Jr. B Hockey Club and the VIctoria Grizzlies Jr. A Hockey Club, is also excited to be part of the new group. “We’ve been involved with the HarbourCats since their inception and I am very impressed with how Jim runs the organization and jumped at the chance to be a part of it when the opportunity arose,” said Wilson. “It is great to have community ownership for the team and I am looking forward to assiting on the business aspect of things, networking and adding whatever knowledge I can from my involvement with local hockey teams. I see nothing but good times ahead and look forward to enjoying many sunny nights at the ballpark.”
HarbourCats sponsor Chris Johnstone (second from left) of Freedom 55 Financial, poses with (L to R) Jom Swanson, John Wilson and the HarbourCats Assistant GM Brad Norris-Jones (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
“We are all committed to this and see the opportunity to grow the HarbourCats,” added Wilson. “This team is important to the Victoria market in that it provides a profile to the region and adds to our identity through B.C., Oregon, Washington and the baseball world. We look forward to working with our fans and corporate partners, both present and future to improve on that identity.”
The HarbourCats also took the opportunity Tuesday to acknowledge a few key sponsors including Sports Traders, who retain the naming rights for Sports Traders Diamond at RAP for another year, along with Floyd’s Diner, who they let slip will be a major food partner for the upcoming season. Also acknowledged were Vancouver Island Brewery and Freedom 55 Financial who are major contributors for the season.
Jim Swanson (left) and John Wilson (right) toast the new ownership group with two Vancouver Island Brewery products that will be on sale at the ballpark this summer (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
They also announced some changes to the roster noting that for various reasons, LHP Henry Baker (Washington), IF Cam Santos (Chico State), RHP Seve Romo (San Diego) and OF Kacy Sith (San Diego) will not be joining the team this summer.
Head Coach Greg Merritt and pitching coach Alec Adame continue to build the 2015 roster, which includes returning 2014 players Gabe Clark, Griffin Andreychuk, Preston Ryan, Alex Rogers, Alex Fagalde and Mikey Wright.
The HarbourCats exhibition season begins with an exhibition game on May 31st and the regular season home opener against the Kelowna Falcons goes Friday June 5th.