Wednesday, May 6, 2015

2015 Preview part 2: More of what's coming this season!

Yesterday we looked at the organizational changes around the park and some of the game-day differences you will experience this year. In today's final segment, we'll concentrate more on the fan experience... 

Here are the second five of my "Top Ten" things I’m excited to see at the park this season. 


Hipster-wear anyone?
Probably not the right word for “Ball Park” food, but it may be getting close.  First off, let’s all have a moment of silence for Bin4 Burgers leaving the park… Thank you. For no other reason than the fact that they are expanding to more locations around town ( they were probably the most successful vendor in RAP history), they have given up the reigns to the BBQ area to Floyd’s Diner. Known for their funky decor and hipster staff, it should be interesting to mix that with ball-capped baseball fans.  Perhaps there will be a HarbourCats Fedora, or a hipster touque & beard on the merch stand this year?

That’s what you’ll find in the old 3rd base side BBQ area. New to the park this year, is the 1st base BBQ area. Gone are the ugly aluminum bleachers in section 7 (right behind the main entrance and ticket booths), to be replaced with a new food area and picnic tables. Fans will see the majesty of the ballpark as soon as they enter the gates, and can stop at new food partner Fat Daddy’s Catering for some potentially game-changing culinary items. We will have to see what their final menu looks like, but the plan is for plated items like pasta, veggie options, and hopefully smoked meats. Fat Daddy’s is known for their smoked  pork and beef creations!

Apart from that, the usual fare is back – Romeos will have slightly warm pizza slices, the odd food truck will show on weekends when something bigger isn't going on around town, and the city will once again insist that they can be the only place to buy the traditional ball park frank (or anything that looks like a hot-dog). In the past, other vendors couldn't even do veggie dogs, because they look like dogs, and the city must do dogs. But they won’t do veggie dogs. Spot the issue? Beer selection will remain the same, with Spinnaker’s leading the way.

Radar Gun

“How fast was that pitch?” “Was that a Slurve?” “Darth, even you could hit that fastball.”… We won’t have to guess anymore, thanks to a brand new radar gun being installed at the park. At this time, there’s no way to get the display directly onto the video board, so watch for a separate display somewhere near the 3rd base dugout. I just hoping for something less “cheesy” than my artistic rendition here…

New Uniforms!

We saw the new road jerseys at the ownership announcement, but that’s just one set. There are a total of three new uniforms this year, replacing the complete set from the first two years. We will reserve judgement until we see them of course, but there are new hats, new logo designs (they are moving away from the HC logo as well), and a full set of new merch matching the new designs. I’m especially interested in seeing the alternate jersey set including fuzzy pants, gloves, undershirt, and shoes that make all the players look exactly like Harvey. To be unveiled on Furry Day at the Park in late June - stay tuned for that one.

I’m kidding of course. You can’t play solid defense in furry shoes.

Returning Players

Everybody loves seeing a recognizable face. In 2014, Alex Degoti was an instant fan favourite as a returnee from the HarbourCats first year and he brought a tiny bit of consistency to an otherwise inconsistent environment. This year, at least six will be returning from last year, including some top-notch talent and local favourites. Gabe Clark, Griffin Andreychuk, Preston Ryan, Alex Rogers, Alex FaGalde, and Mikey Wright are all planning to rejoin, and there may be more as the season gets closer. While fans will still need to learn a good portion of the new roster, it will be invaluable to have recognizable names in the list.

Another good point is that having players return at all means they enjoyed their time here last year and saw some real benefit. Kudos to the club for making that a priority last year, and again this year.

Ticketing System Changes

Not that I had a ton of issues with the old ticketing system, but on occasion I heard rumbles of the system being down, or not producing tickets, etc. A new system upgrade is underway and should be in place for opening day. Again not something I was concerned about last year, but know that when you sign on to pick up your game tickets this year, you should be greeted with an easier-to-use and more convenient option. It will come with all the latest bells and whistles though, including paperless ticketing with mobile device tickets, specific seat selection as before, and a mobile front-end so you can buy from your phone.

As you can see, there are plenty of positive things going on at the park, not just the same product being repackaged. Lots of thought is going into enhancing the fan experience, and I think it’s safe to say that your experience will be different this year.  At first glance, it looks like all the right things are being addressed, and different will mean better too. Like you, I can’t wait to see it all in motion opening day!

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