Is the Herd going to give up on Burlington?

sportsgold 100x100By Pepper Parr

July 12th, 2018



Ryan Harrison, an Ontario Hockey League referee and one of four co-owners of the Intercounty Baseball League’s Burlington Herd, is conducting the mission on behalf of his team that he will share with the eight-team league.

IBL July 11th

Herd standing in the IBL as of July 11th – they have never moved out of the bottom half of the league

The Herd is looking into a possible move from Burlington to Welland. He has the league’s blessing to conduct the search.

“We don’t lose money, said Harrison, “so that’s not an issue there, but we also don’t make money.”

Whether that will be as home to a team in the Intercounty Baseball League depends on the results of an ongoing “fact-finding mission.”

Ryan Harrison HERD

Ryan Harrison – President of the Burlington Herd.

Harrison said the people in Welland are all for the idea of an InterCounty League baseball team. “They wonder why there isn’t a team here already.”

The 28-year-old sales representative with an athletic wear company hasn’t ruled out the Herd relocating to Welland should a long-term business plan be viable, but ideally would like to see the southern Ontario league expand.

“I think having new blood in the lineup is healthy for us,” he said after touring the 2,500-seat stadium along with Welland native and fellow OHL referee Brent Coulombe.

“I’m not saying we need 14, 16 to 20 teams, but one or two more would make it 10.”

Harrison was impressed with the fan and player amenities offered in the single-deck facility built in 1989 to accommodate the Welland Pirates, then the New York-Pennsylvania League affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Herd manager 2017-18

Herd Manager during the 2017-18 season

In addition to dressing rooms for home and visiting teams and dugouts with washrooms, the stadium has a concession stand, press box, ticket booth and a change room for umpires.

“It’s quite impressive compared to other parks in the league,” Harrison said. “This would be the second-best park after Labatt Park in London.”

With five renovations since it was constructed near the forks of the Thames River in 1877, the home of the London Majors boasts a seat capacity of 5,200.

Like Welland Stadium, it briefly served as home to a franchise in the Canadian Baseball League. Billed as baseball’s version of the Canadian Football League, the eight-team league folded midway into its inaugural season in 2003.

My beautiful picture

Welland Stadium – has more going for it than Nelson Park

Harrison followed up his tour of the municipally-owned stadium by addressing such issues as the park’s availability, concession and advertising signage rights with City of Welland.

“Right now, it’s very preliminary.”

Casey poster

A move to Welland would mean moving from the Cosgrove Baseball field.

Casey Cosgrove Field, the Herd’s current home, can only accommodate 1,000 spectators and while the team can put up advertising, it has to take the ads down after every game.

“It’s not conducive to what this league is now,” Harrison said of the community park. “We’re a fan-based league, we need ticket sales, we need everything like that.

“Here, everything is ready for us to show up, open the doors and go, whereas in Burlington, it’s a lot of setup and tear-down every night.

“This would be a lot easier on us, for sure.”

While relocation of the Burlington franchise remains a possibility, a move down the Queen Elizabeth Way to Niagara Region is far from a certainty.

“That’s still up in the air,” Harrison said. “We’re still working with the City of Burlington on different things to improve our park there.”

While imports – a maximum of five for the bottom two teams, four for the others – receive daily stipends of up to $35 in addition to being housed in billet homes, the Intercounty is regarded as an amateur under National Collegiate Athletic Association eligibility requirements.

Teams generate revenue through ticket sales, concessions as well as advertising and sponsorships.
Attendance fluctuates dramatically according to the individual markets. Harrison said London draws 500 to 1,000 fans per game, while attendance in Burlington averages about 200 to 250 per game.

Herd-logoWelland Stadium has not been without baseball since the Niagara Stars left in 2003. Both the Rose City Thorns and Welland Chiefs senior teams in the Niagara District Baseball Association play the home half of their 24-game schedules there at the stadium, but neither charges admission. The last fan-based team that depended on sponsorships and ticket sales was the Niagara Stars.

Pittsburgh’s New York-Penn League affiliate played six seasons in Welland, 1989 to 1994, before relocating to northwestern Pennsylvania and becoming the Erie SeaWolves.

Welland Stadium’s next pro tenant, the Welland Aqua-Ducks of the North Atlantic League, lasted two seasons, 1995-96, before they folded along with the entire league.

After touring the stadium, Harrison was at a loss to explain why the ballpark hasn’t had a ticket-based team since the Stars.

Welland’s perceived location as off the beaten path could be a factor, as could the Intercounty Baseball League’s $40,000 expansion fee.

“People think it’s a little far away, but it’s actually not that far considering there are teams in London and Barrie.

“We used to have a team in Ottawa, so distance is relative.”

Other Intercounty teams and the seating capacity of their ballparks: Barrie Baycats, 1,500; Brantford Red Sox, 2,000; Guelph Royals, 1,400; Hamilton Cardinals, 3,000; Kitchener Panthers, 1,400; Toronto Maple Leafs, 3,000.

Most of this news story came from the St.Catharines Standard.

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1 comment to Is the Herd going to give up on Burlington?

  • Lonely Taxpayer

    I went to a Herd game last year and it seemed they did everything they could to lose – and did.

    Last year they went 13-23 & this year they’re last place in the league 7-16

    I realize not every town can have a winning team but this is a hard team to watch until they start winning some games. Good luck for 2018.