The summer-collegiate Coastal Plain League has named the Wilmington Sharks its 2019 Organization of the Year. Wilmington is owned by Matt Perry and Bill Davidson of NSS Sports.
“It has been a consistent labor of love over the last couple of years, but the Sharks have proven themselves to be a leader in the CPL,” said Coastal Plain League COO/Commissioner Justin Sellers. “The amount of passion that Matt (Perry), Bill (Davidson), Carson (Bowen), Alyson (Smist), Pat (Hutchins), and their whole staff convey really shines thru during your whole time at the Shark Tank. This award recognizes what a great job they all have done this year both at games and throughout the year in the community, which is proud to call the Sharks their hometown team!”
Wilmington was chosen after collecting input on every facet of an organization from game-day operations to overall hospitality and community involvement, from team owners, general managers, umpires, players and league officials. Other teams in contention were the Morehead City Marlins and Savannah Bananas.
“This is a tremendous honor for the entire organization and for the team owners it’s validation that we’re doing things the right way,” said team owner Matt Perry. “We’re especially proud of our front office and game day staff who have tremendous passion for the Sharks and our mission to be a key community asset in Wilmington and the Cape Fear region.”
While every offseason presents teams with new challenges, the fall of 2018 hit North Carolina coastal cities, including Wilmington, hard when Hurricane Florence came through leaving a great deal of flooding and destruction in its wake. For the Sharks, the answer was simple – their offseason started with helping those hit the hardest rebuild.
“Our offseason began with a compassion and understanding that many were just trying to survive versus worrying about season tickets or sponsorships with the Sharks,” noted Perry. “We’re a part of the City and region, so it was imperative for us to be in the community offering help and assistance where we could (collecting food, presence in hard-hit areas, raising funds for recovery efforts).”
Those efforts in the community expanded beyond hurricane relief as the months went on the Sharks worked to grow their already successful reading program, build in more Little League and cancer awareness nights at the ballpark and continuing programs such as Sharky’s Kids for underprivileged youth in the area. This type of community focus extended to game day as well with the Sharks going the extra-mile in everything they do from wiping down fans seats as they enter, to their ballpark entertainer Tom Lamont always keeping fans engaged – the atmosphere makes it one of the best places in the country to watch a game.
“Our front office and game day staff really cares about our fans and ensuring they have a good time, from greeting them, engaging them in the game entertainment and thanking them for coming,” said Perry. “We can’t take our fans for granted – they have all sorts of options to invest their entertainment dollars in the Wilmington region. Special kudos to Tom Lamont, our game night guru, who worked tirelessly at Sharks games to engage the fans.”
Fans took notice as the Sharks notched more sellouts and overall attendance than in seasons past, with Perry noting the team focused on selling the experience to fans as a way to stand out amongst a large number of entertainment options in the area.
“Our selling point is asking people to come out to the ballpark and have some fun – enjoy your friends and family,” said Perry “Spend time together in a social environment. Smile!”
With plans to expand seating and upgrade the stadium as a whole, it should allow more fans than ever to experience what the Sharks have to offer over the coming years. The team has hopes to have all stadium upgrades, including a new video board completed in time for the 2021 season.
“We’re working diligently with the City, County and New Hanover school district on a major renovation which will expand the seating capacity, add a new press box, artificial turf playing surface, new support facilities and a new video board for the 2021 season,” explained Perry. “The renovations will be transformative for the Sharks, New Hanover High School and American Legion Post 10 (both two-time defending state champions), and will provide an opportunity to add new events in the fall and early spring.”