The Barbagallo Perth Heat are benefiting from the strong revival of baseball in Western Australia, with plans being launched to increase the capacity of their stadium, a train link to extend to their stadium's gate, strong financial performance and the acceptance of the Claxton Shield into Western Australia.
In an Austadiums.com exclusive interview with the events manager of Baseball WA, Shane Tonkin explained that the re-launch of the Barbagallo Perth Heat was part of the reason why crowds had been so strong in WA. "We were getting 2-2,500 for five days at the venue...what we had before, we had a great name and good following...residual effect, from 10 years on is still strong".
As WA leads the nation, its growth depends on if the other states can get back its crowds, which at present are significantly less then those who go to Tom Bateman Reserve, with 200-800 going to other venues.
In the face of new found optimism in the sport of Baseball in the last two years, Tonkin explained that there should be some redevelopment to Tom Bateman Reserve, and with a huge area to expand, the sky's the limit on stadium redevelopment. The initial redevelopment of 2.7 million dollars seems to just be the start.
"We brought back them a little earlier, so we didn't miss the boat for a WA team to be included in the national league".
"We are looking at it...we have got roughly a $200,000 project, extending the seating to the end of the dug out to where they are". "Department of Sport and Recreation helped fly in other teams into events...as they could see the benefits and the growth of the sport".
"Sky's the limit really, we have the area to putting the extra capacity in, whether it's realistic to put a 20,000 stadium up there is the question that needs to be asked".
"Baseball WA is in a very healthy financial state at the moment and baseball in WA is definitely leading the country".
While it also helps, that the city of Gosnells are massive supporters of Baseball, with the revelation that the council is looking at joint funding a railway extension, so a station would be right outside the venue's gate.
"In fact there has been a meeting with the Mayor of Gosnells, Patricia Morris who is a massive supporter of baseball, has put in plans to put in a station directly behind the baseball ground".
"Would be joint Local Funding and State Government funding for the railway extension". "The council do so much for us, virtually honest, only for the last 2 years, before that they where disgruntled".
"Baseball in the region is very strong, very good junior baseball base. In the summer season Baseball and Tee Ball are the biggest sports".
While Tonkin calmly suggested despite the huge growth in baseball in Western Australia, the name Perth Heat was to ensure that they were included in a possible new national competition, as they feared that it could just be an eastern states competition.
"Based on transport costs we thought that they might use only the south eastern states".
In a further coup for the success of Baseball WA, Tonkin explained that the success of the Claxton Shield bid, was based on the crowd success of the Perth Heat.
"The Australian Baseball Federation, headed up by Don Knapp, asked for an expression of interest from all state bodies...Baseball WA after the success of last season and international we held against Chinese Taipei...because of that success we put in a bid".
"We immediately got a response, that they were very interested in holding it in Perth".
"On one of the days, we got 3000-3,500 during the test match on a Friday Night".
The Claxton Shield Venues in Rockingham and Mandurah will also be played at baseball venues, while highlighting that growth in Baseball in some areas is resulting in them refusing registrations.
"Rockingham venue is called Hourglass Reserve, Rockingham Baseball Club...City of Rockingham are very big supporters of baseball".
"Next State League team to be based in Rockingham".
"Mandurah will be using Merlin St Reserve".
"The growth difference is significant, we are starting to expand so much that we can't hold all the numbers...its roughly the same in the north and south, the reason why they (south of the river) get more exposure, is that it's actually regional and we get good funding from the Department of Sport and Recreation".
With the growth of the Heat, it may be plausible to think that the good old days of Australian Baseball look set to return.
By Chris Egan