The Vancouver Canadians (Short Season A; Northwest League) are no strangers to success. Prior to a record-breaking 2017, the club had built a long track record of offering strong customer service to a fan base that was more than willing to come take in a night at the ballpark action. For their consistent success, which continued this past season, the Canadians are being recognized with the Ballpark Digest Continued Excellence Award for 2017.
During the 2017 season, the Canadians reached new levels of success. The club finished the season’s attendance total with 239,527 fans—a record for the Northwest League franchise—and averaged 6,303 per game. This not only allowed the team to top its circuit in attendance, but made it the highest-drawing club in all of Short Season A baseball.
Coming into the season, increasing attendance numbers was just one of several priorities for the Canadians.
“We wanted to keep growing the attendance number,” said Canadians president Andy Dunn. “We wanted to make sure we were doing positive things in the community. Those were some lofty goals, but thanks to the commitment of our staff, and the fans for coming out to the ballpark we achieved them, and managed to exceed our goals by winning the Northwest League championship. It was a special year in Vancouver.”
Undoubtedly, 2017 will go down as a banner year for the Canadians, thanks to its mix of on and off-field highlights. However, the season was also the result of a gradual buildup of accomplishments the team has mounted over several years.
In a stretch that dates back to 2008, the Canadians have finished either first or second in Northwest League attendance annually. Since drawing a per-game average of 4,870 fans in 2014, the club has increased that number in each subsequent year, including 5,825 in 2015, 6,177 in 2016, and 6,303 in 2017.
Along the way, the Canadians have been noted for providing exceptional customer service at Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium. This has been a priority under a staff that is led by Dunn and team owners Jake Kerr and Jeff Mooney, and it remains one of the club’s major points of emphasis.
“I think that, tied with our involvement in the community, are the two most important things we do,” Dunn said of the Canadians’ customer service. “I’m a huge believer in saying please and thank you to the fans coming, and really being grateful for the fans coming to the ballpark.
“Our fans come out night after night, and have one of the greatest times you can have.” Dunn added. “They’re great baseball fans, and they’re creating the excitement at Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium. Our staff also does an exceptional job in taking care of people night after night.”
In addition, the team has completed several improvements over the years to improve Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Field, a historic ballpark that opened in 1951. Among the most notable has been the hey y’all! Porch, a group area that was added prior to the 2015 season.
Dunn believes that the club can build on 2017, and that it can always look to evolve its blueprint for bringing fans out to the ballpark. “It never stops evolving. The day it does is when you’re in trouble.”
The Canadians will look to continue growing in the future, but 2017 will always be remembered as a strong season that was reflective of years of work and success.
“All the recognition we receive as an organization is due to the excellent and hard work of our front office, our tremendous game day staff, the tremendous support we receive in Vancouver from our passionate fans and friends and our great partners the Toronto Blue Jays,” Dunn said. “We want to thank Ballpark Digest for this wonderful award.”
There were several worthy contenders for this award, and two teams are begin recognized with honorable mentions.
The Reading Fightin Phils (Class AA; Eastern League) have often set a standard for success, and did so once again in 2017. With an average of 6,054 fans per-game, the Fightin Phils topped the Eastern League in attendance and their overall figure of 411,698 fans was also a league leader. Over the years, the club has earned a reputation for providing an exceptional fan experience at FirstEnergy Stadium, a facility that opened in 1951 and remains viable today thanks to improvements completed by the team. “We are humbled and honored to be recognized by Ballpark Digest,” said Fightins General Manager Scott Hunsicker. “As our owner Craig Stein always says, you are either getting better, or you are getting worse; nothing stays the same. We are very fortunate to have a tremendous front office staff, game day employees that treat this place as their home, the longest affiliation in all of baseball with our great partners the Philadelphia Phillies — since 1967, and generations of fans that have enjoyed coming out to America’s Classic Ballpark since 1950. It’s a pretty good recipe — we’ll keep working hard to make it even better. Thank you for this honor.”
A model of consistency, the Dayton Dragons (Low A; Midwest League) have been a success since their debut at Fifth Third Field in 2000. The Dragons have a sellout streak that dates back to 2000 and have managed to finish among the top-10 drawing teams in Minor League Baseball all of their seasons. The Dragons also made a notable improvement to Fifth Third Field in 2017 by introducing an overhauled Azek Dragons Lair.
2017 Ballpark Digest Award Winners
Editor’s Choice Award For Outstanding Achievement: Redband Rally Campaign, Spokane Indians
Best Ballpark Improvement (Under $1M): Modern Woodmen Park Amusements
Best Charity Effort: Quad Cities River Bandits
Editor’s Choice Award: National Eclipse Games
Best New Food Item: Beercheese Poutine
Best New Concessions Experience: Miller Park
Best Ballpark Improvement (Over $1M): Great Dane Duck Blind
Executive of the Year: Ryan Keur
Best New Logo/Branding: Down East Wood Ducks
Best Ballpark Renovation (MiLB): Fluor Field, Greenville Drive
Broadcasters: Howard Kellman and Mick Gillespie
Ballpark of the Year: SunTrust Park, Atlanta Braves