Cape Breton Post

‘We want to get our name on the list’

Vancover’s mayor makes pitch for MLB franchise


VANCOUVER — Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart has sent a letter to Major League Baseball, suggesting the city as a good candidate for a bigleague team one day.

The Oakland Athletics are trying to get a new stadium built and are unsure whether they can get it done in the California city that they have called home since 1968. The MLB head office has given the team their blessing to look at relocating, and club executives made a very public trip to Las Vegas recently.

Best case, Stewart reaching out gets Vancouver a trip from the A’s. Worse case, it gets Vancouver into the queue for a relocated team or an expansion one down the road. Portland Nashville and Montreal are among the other cities looking for MLB teams.

MLB commission­er Rob Manfred talked about expansion and related fees of US$2.2 billion in April but didn’t have a timeline for adding new teams. Vancouver is one of the cities that he’s mentioned before. MLB is at 30 teams and the fact he’s talking about fees suggests the league is willing to grow.

“We want to get our name on the list,” Stewart said Wednesday. “Let’s get in the running. Let’s get on people’s radar. Somebody has to be out there pitching Vancouver all the time, and I enjoy doing it. I see it as a part of the job. I do it for other businesses. You can’t just sit there and wait for people to come to you. We’ve got an awesome city. It’s one of the most exciting cities in the world, and it’s growing.

“I think Vancouver would be a perfect place for Major League Baseball. It’s a city that has a relaxed vibe in the summer. I could see the folks enjoying going to the ballpark on a summer night.”

He’s says he’s not worried that people will think he’s merely trying to do some early politickin­g with the Vancouver civic election in October 2022.

“I’ve been in politics 10 years. A lot worse things have been said about me,” Stewart explained.

He’s also not concerned that people will think he should be focused on other things, with the city just coming out of COVID-19, etc.

“It’s not like I’m only doing this. It’s not something I’m working on 24/7,” he said.

As for having a legitimate shot at landing the A’s, Vancouver doesn’t have a stadium, which is an obvious strike against the city. B.C. Place was originally built with an eye toward baseball but it’s been reconfigur­ed for football and soccer.

Vancouver Canadians president Andy Dunn toyed with the idea of having MLB exhibition­s there and tested it in September 2014 by having the UBC Thunderbir­ds take batting practice at the dome. Right field was only 275 feet from home plate, which is about 60-feet shy of your standard big-league ballpark. Several balls also came close to the video scoreboard that hangs over the middle of the field.

The exhibition idea has never been revisited.

Nat Bailey Stadium, which is the C’s home ballpark, has a capacity of 6,413 fans, which is ideal for their higha minor league level but falls well short for a big-league club on even a short-term basis.

Stewart doesn’t dispute any of that. He says he’s been told that MLB wants parks that are “exclusive for baseball” and he’s “done a cursory look” for sites for a new stadium. He didn’t disclose any of his options.

“I had been told major league sports wanted stadiums in the suburbs but now they’re looking at stadiums that are right downtown. I don’t think there’s a more walkable city in the downtown core than Vancouver,” Stewart said.

Stewart says he speaks regularly with Dunn, as well as C’s owners Jake Kerr and Jeff Mooney. Part of that is that Nat Bailey is on city land. The C’s need the ballpark to be upgraded in the next couple of years as part of their affiliatio­n with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Stewart says he’s also checking with Canadian government officials on when the Canada-u.s. border might reopen because the C’s are playing out of the Portland suburb of Hillsboro, Ore., this season due to COVID restrictio­ns.

“I’m getting good advice on all things baseball,” Stewart said.

Oakland was the C’s parent club before them landing an affiliatio­n deal with the Jays in 2011 and Kerr had said that he would reach out to the A’s about considerin­g Vancouver as an affiliate again. There’s no word on whether Kerr has done that.

The whole idea of bringing MLB to Vancouver would be pricey. It would take a deeppocket­ed owner. A group led by Derek Jeter bought the Miami Marlins in 2017 for US$1.2 billion.

“There are people out there,” Stewart said.

Oakland city council has scheduled July 20 to discuss the A’s new stadium bid.

The San Jose Mercury News newspaper in California reported in May that there’s been nine occasions when the A’s looked like they might leave Oakland in their 53 years in the city.

 ?? POSTMEDIA NEWS ?? Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart outside Vancouver City Hall.
POSTMEDIA NEWS Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart outside Vancouver City Hall.

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