If all the ducks align, Vancouver Island could have two West Coast League (WCL) baseball teams playing by the 2020 or 2021 season.
The ownership group of the Victoria HarbourCats, which includes John Wilson, Rich Harder, Ken Swanson and Managing Partner Jim Swanson, gave full notice to the WCL – the top collegiate summer baseball league in the western half of North America – of intentions to place a team in Nanaimo, playing out of historic Serauxmen Stadium. Under league rules, ownership groups can own more than one team as each club sets up different baseball operations departments to maintain fairness and competitiveness.
“Nanaimo would be an ideal market for a WCL team, and make for natural rivalries with Victoria, Bellingham, Port Angeles and Kelowna in particular,” said John Wilson, Vice-President of the HarbourCats, and CEO of The Wilson’s Group of Companies. “Managing Partner of the Club, Jim Swanson has dedicated many hours researching and creating business projections. Not only do the numbers work out positively, Nanaimo has proven to be an excellent sports town with a rich history in baseball.”
Former HarbourCat and Nanaimo native Griffin Andreychuk takes a cut during a HarbourCats exhibition game at Serauxmen Stadium in Nanaimo in July of 2015 Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
The bid process now starts with completing an expansion arrangement with the WCL, a user group agreement with the board that runs Serauxmen Stadium (Serauxmen Stadium Amateur Baseball Association) and working with the City of Nanaimo targeting for a 2020 or 2021 start.
“When I was in Nanaimo last summer, I was tremendously impressed by the local passion for bringing top-flight summer baseball to this jewel of a stadium,” said Rob Neyer, Commissioner of the WCL. “It definitely has the potential to provide a great baseball experience at the collegiate summer level.”
A 2018 exhibition game between the HarbourCats and a Nanaimo All-Star team drew a packed crowd to Serauxmen Stadium (Photo: Courtesy GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said, “The City supports the expansion of the WestCoast league in Nanaimo and is committed to providing assistance and cooperation to ensure the new team is set up for success at Serauxman field.”
Lorne Goodall, President of Serauxmen Stadium Amateur Baseball Association said, “Our group is excited to be working with the City of Nanaimo and stadium user groups to bring lights, needed upgrades and renovations to historic Serauxmen stadium to help make a WCL team for Nanaimo a reality.”
“There are many aspects of our successful operation in Victoria that we can put in place in Nanaimo, and I’m excited this will allow baseball fans on the Island to see more great baseball,” said Jim Swanson. “The collaborative working relationship of the Serauxmen board, the City of Nanaimo, and the WCL board has helped drive this forward.”