Royal Athletic Park seats getting comfort boost

A night at the old ball yard will feel more comfortable on the underside next season at Royal Athletic Park.

The City of Victoria will be installing 1,300 bucket seats with backrests to replace the current aluminum bench seating that runs along the first and third base-lines below the walkway. The aluminum bleachers in the upper sections, and beyond first base, will remain. The grandstand seating behind home plate, which currently includes backrests, will not be affected.

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The base-line seating will be upgraded in time for the 2014 Victoria HarbourCats’ season in the West Coast League of baseball.

“There are always going to be upgrades and improvements to a veteran stadium. This makes things more comfortable for the fans,” said HarbourCats general manager Jim Swanson.

HarbourCats owner John McLean said the capital improvement shows a level of commitment from both the City and HarbourCats to making baseball work in Victoria.

“We’re not one and done or two and out,” said McLean, a private equity investor from Vancouver.

“This speaks to longevity. We plan to have a team that plays in that park for a long while.”

The WCL is a summer league featuring top-rated U.S. collegiate NCAA prospects. A total of 57 players who have performed in the WCL were selected in the 2013 MLB draft.

The HarbourCats were 22-32 in their inaugural 2013 WCL season under veteran skipper Dennis Rogers, who will again coach the club next season. The HarbourCats finished second in league attendance with a per-game average of 1,437 fans over 27 home dates. That total does not include the WCL all-time single-game record 4,210 fans who turned out for the 2013 WCL all-star game in Victoria.

The HarbourCats open the 54-game 2014 regular season with three road dates June 6-8 in Kelowna against the Falcons. The home opener at Royal Athletic is June 10 against the Cowlitz Black Bears from Kelso/Longview, Wash.

The HarbourCats will announce their first player signings for 2104 next week.

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