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The Five-Year Plan: How The C's became Champions

Owners Jake Kerr and Jeff Mooney hit a home run out at 'The Nat'
October 7, 2011
(Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium - Vancouver, BC) - I'm not sure who came up with the sports version of the five-year plan, but it seems in today's world, you have five years to turn something that is struggling into a winner.

Maybe it was Brian Burke or Lou Lamoriello. Perhaps it was a design created by Bill Parcells or Jerry Jones, who knows.

But based on the sports gauge of five years, you would have to think that Vancouver Canadians owners Jake Kerr and Jeff Mooney have to like how everything has fallen into place out at Scotiabank Field.

Let's look back at how these two men took a flailing Minor League Baseball franchise and turned it into one of the most respected sports entities in the Northwest.


Both Jake Kerr and Jeff Mooney were introduced to the local sports media as a pair of business owners who just happened to have a passion for baseball.

Kerr, one of the most noted lumber minds in North America joined forces with longtime friend Jeff Mooney who remains the top dog at A&W restaurants. Passion and business savvy weren't going to be an issue with these two at the helm, but even they would be the first to admit that Year One had its challenges.

At a recent speaking engagement, Kerr spoke of how he came to realize early on in his ventures out at the ballpark that when you broke it all down, was simply a "very large fast-food restaurant that happened to have a baseball game going on".

Funny when you think of it that way, but again, when you break this business down to its core, perhaps there is some truth in that. Good thing he could look to Jeff Mooney who had helped resurrect the A&W brand into one of North America's premier fast-food restaurants.

The owners wasted little time before they brought in a force of workers that were ready to break historic Nat Bailey Stadium down to its bones and build it back up to a standard that Vancouver's fickle sports fans expected.

How they were able to keep the charm of a nearly 60-year old stadium while giving it the ability to compete in the 21st century remains a mystery, but they did and five years later - you can physically see how the Canadians have been able to string together three straight attendance records.

The credit comes to the Canadians now, but the work to make this happen began five years ago.


Shortly after the calendar turned, Jake and Jeff were able to lock up former Florida Marlins, Montreal Expos and Washington Nationals executive Andy Dunn.

Dunn would be named the 11th President in Vancouver Canadians history but might have been one of the most decorated having spent the past several years building his resume at the Major League level.

With a combination of vision and ability, Dunn would begin to educate Jake and Jeff on how they could take the Canadians brand to the next level.

A new logo, new uniform and new mascots were all part of a complete image overhaul.

Dunn was quick to put his signature on the Canadians franchise breathing new life into a team that was desperately looking to reinvent itself after several years of spinning its tires.

The response was immediate.

Fans became more curious about just 'what was happening out at 'The Nat'' and the corporate sector was also catching word about the 'winds of change' out at 33rd and Ontario Street.

The foundation was being laid and Dunn wasn't 'done' for lack of a better phrase.

He began to assemble a core of young, vibrant staff members that all bought into his vision and timelines. Dunn would work alongside Graham Wall who had come to the Canadians after several years of sales in both the media and sports sector.

He would develop both Jason Takefman and JC Fraser into roles that gave them the chance to hone a skillset that continues to serve them well.

From the grounds crew to the ticket department right through to the media department - Dunn built with the vision that the Canadians were to become the standard and no longer got by on simply opening the doors.

The relationship between the Canadians and Oakland Athletics remained strong as they entered a Player Development Contract extending through the 2010 season. It would be the last such PDC between the two sides, but both could eventually look back at each other and say thank you for the support.


In 2009, the Canadians may have finally turned the corner.

It was the year that the message changed from what we 'used to be' to 'what we were suddenly becoming'.

Inside the building, fans saw nearly twice as many points of purchase meaning shorter line-ups, fresher food and colder beverages. It also was the year the C's got back to basics with their menu giving fans more choices including a Nathan's Famous that was considered by many to be 'the King of hot dogs' throughout North America.

The Canadians would also begin to work on a Foundation that would help local children in need find ways on to their neighbourhood diamonds. What started in 2009 as a simple conversation, quickly turned into one of the most memorable efforts by any Vancouver Canadians ownership group in franchise history.

That core group of front office staff saw their roles change heading into the 2010 season as Jason Takefman was promoted to the role of General Manager while JC Fraser was given the title of Assistant General Manager. Graham Wall was promoted to Vice-President, Sales & Marketing while Allan Bailey became the Director of Ticket Operations.

It was a special moment for this core group as many of them rolled up their sleeves and pounded the pavement to try and help take the Canadians toward the next level.


With Nat Bailey Stadium surrounded by fencing and security, it was clear that the 2010 Winter Olympic Games were going to be both a blessing and a curse.

For the past two years, you couldn't walk two feet in any direction around the ballpark without seeing or hearing any number of construction workers who were working feverishly to help get the Olympic Curling venue ready in time for the World who arrived in February of 2010. They did, and Nat Bailey Stadium played a key role in ensuring the Games around Hillcrest Park went off without a hitch.

Canada struck Gold just feet away from Nat Bailey Stadium and the Games proved to everyone globally that Vancouver could in fact hold its own on sport's biggest stage.

The buzz left behind by the Winter Games was infectious as the Canadians reaped the benefit of fans looking to carry on the magic of Canada's greatest sporting moment into the summer months.

Fans flocked out to the ballpark and were quickly taken aback by the progress the Canadians had made while the attention had been put elsewhere.

When the dust of the Games had finally settled, the Canadians unveiled a new multi-year naming rights deal with longtime partners Scotiabank to rename the historic baseball venue 'Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium'.

Furthermore, fans were hypnotized by one of the clearest, most modern upgrades in stadium history as Jake Kerr, Jeff Mooney and Andy Dunn unveiled Canadians Diamond Vision, one of North America's highest resolution video boards that would immediately change the way fans enjoyed a C's baseball game. Even those who were certain that the added feature would take away from the nostalgia of 'The Nat' were dazzled by how much 'more' a fan could enjoy a game with the assistance of Diamond Vision.

One of the benefits of being so close to an Olympic venue was that the C's could gain a much needed power grid upgrade that thanks to the City of Vancouver, the Park Board and the 2010 Olympic Games Committee (VANOC). With a new lighting system put in place as well, the Canadians were performing at a much brighter level, yet saving thousands on newer technology and essentially 'going green'.

Just before the calendar would flip to 2011, the Canadians called a major news conference where they would announce a new multi-year Player Development Contract with the Toronto Blue Jays.

The match that was made in heaven finally came to fruition as Canada's only Major League team had paired up with Canada's only Minor League team to form a very formidable relationship between the country's two baseball powers. The announcement brought out the 'who's who' when it came to the Jays.

Paul Beeston, Phil Lind, Alex Anthopoulos, Tony LaCava, Doug Davis, Charlie Wilson and former Cy Young Award winner Pat Hentgen all trotted out the colours to show Vancouver's baseball hungry fans that they meant business.

One of the quotes most memorable from Blue Jays President Paul Beeston was 'We are going to put a winner in Vancouver'. 'Tall' talk heading into the 2011 Northwest League season.


The Blue Jays were back in Vancouver early in 2011 as part of the Rogers Sportsnet Winter Tour.

Vancouver Canadians fans would be happy to know that the unveiling of the newly-formed Vancouver Canadians Baseball Foundation would time out perfectly with the Jays and their players meaning that 400 fans got the chance to meet and greet the likes of Ricky Romero, JP Arencibia, Travis Snider and Scott Richmond along with manager John Farrell and Alex Anthopoulos.

All who came out along with a number of support staff to throw their name behind the VCBF. The result? A sold-out venue that raised more than $65,000 in just over three hours with every single dollar going right back into our community.

It was a defining moment for both clubs as the Blue Jays had truly returned to the West, while the Canadians had made a statement about giving back into the community.

A year wiser, a year more focused, the Canadians wanted to raise the curtain on their relationship with the Blue Jays the best way possible - by showcasing a winner both on and off the field.

An 11-3 start to the season on the field was nice, but it was in the details where the Canadians made their greatest strides. The annual Superstar Series continued to be a major draw for local baseball fans as Kelly Gruber, Jesse Barfield, Lloyd Moseby and Ed Sprague would all let fans rub shoulders with the 'hey day' of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Then, the big announcement.

Roberto Alomar was added to the 2011 Superstar Series presented by the BC Sports Hall of Fame just days before he would become the first Toronto Blue Jay player enshrined into Cooperstown.

The icing on the cake?

Along with Alomar's appearance, former Blue Jays Duane Ward and John Olerud would also come to Vancouver to help conduct a three-day kid's camp that had both kids and their parents star struck by the presence of Alomar and his pals.

The menu? While it continues to take different looks year-by-year as fans look to see what the Canadians creative minds are up to. President Andy Dunn decided bigger is better and helped roll out a two-foot hot dog, along with a pulled pork sandwich and a number of other menu options that had fans impressed.

A&W Family Fun Sundays remained a staple with kids running the bases post-game, while Power Smart 'Nooners presented by BC Hydro continued to help balance our several Fireworks Extravaganzas.

What more could you ask for in the fifth year of the 'five-year plan'?

How about the long awaited Championship.

Vancouver found a way into the post-season on the final day of the regular season and rattled off series victories over both Eugene and Tri-City respectively to win the franchise's first Northwest League Championship since moving to Vancouver in 2000.

Simply put, it was a five-year plan that worked to perfection.

From a tattered stadium with a valueless ticket, to three straight attendance records, a renewed sense of community and a Northwest League Championship.

It didn't come without its bumps in the road, but after five years of building the business, it's fair to say that taking ownership of the Canadians has been well worth the investment.