Cavalry boom turns into bust
A packed Narrabundah ball park on game night. Photo: Andrew Sheargold
The Canberra Cavalry has ''burst at the seams'' and will attempt to put a lid on its booming popularity by setting a crowd cap for its games at Narrabundah Ballpark for the rest of the Australian Baseball League season.
A record crowd of 1950, high demand for food and just three female toilets at its Narrabundah base prompted the Cavalry to ask the ACT government to speed up a $5 million redevelopment.
The bumper turnout resulted in an ''unbelievably unexpected'' problem of fans waiting 30 minutes to use the toilets and the kitchen being overloaded with orders at the opening home games of the season at the weekend.
Excited Canberra Cavalry fans attend the first game of the season in 2011/12. Photo: Andrew Sheargold
With the government reluctant to start work on an upgrade, the Cavalry will set a ticket limit of 1500 spectators to ensure they get a quality experience.
The move to cap ticket sales to 1500 a match could cost the club around $100,000 if it is forced to turn away spectators, as more than 20 games are scheduled to be played at Narrabundah during the 2012-13 season.
But Cavalry general manager Thom Carter said on Monday it was a sacrifice the team was willing to make to ensure fans were comfortable and wanted to return.
''We're very excited with our growth, but there have been some growing pains which have meant we've had to take a step back and say, 'maybe we're going too fast','' he said.
''The playing surface is state of the art, probably the best in the country, but with 1900 people we've got long food lines and bathroom lines and we want to make sure the fan experience is where we want it to be.
''If we don't slow our growth, we'll affect our fan experience, that will affect our bottom line, but we'd much rather sacrifice revenue than impede our fans' experience.''
The record crowd of 1950 watched the team lose to the Sydney Blue Sox last Friday night. The previous ground record was 1600. Another 1300 turned up to watch the Cavalry in its next two games against the Blue Sox on Saturday night. The canteen area is small and staff struggled to deal with the increased demand for hot food.
The government is committed to upgrading Narrabundah, but no design work has been done and any redevelopment would cause a disruption during the season.
''The big crowds confirm the need for an upgrade of the venue,'' ACT Sports Minister Andrew Barr said on Monday.
''The government will sit down with the Cavalry and work out what short-term measures we can take to boost capacity.''
Having to turn away more than 400 fans could cost the Cavalry around $5000 a game. The franchise will use its ticket cap for the first time when the Cavalry plays New Zealand in a two-game series on Friday and Saturday nights.
''It's a bad financial business decision for us ... we don't want people standing in line for 30 minutes,'' Carter said.
''Our caterers can only cook very little [at a time] because of the set-up ... they made 11 cups of hot chips and with a long line, people buy 11 cups at once.
''We don't want people saying they had a terrible time at the Cavalry. We have burst at the seams, we need to take a step back to ensure we don't chase people away.
''We'd rather lose money than lose people. People love coming out and having a good time, but they can't have a good time if they're waiting 30 minutes for the toilet or 45 minutes for a hot dog.
''This has blown us all away - we were caught off guard, so we'll talk to the government to see how we can maybe put some lipstick on this pig.''
The 1500 fan cap will remain until the Cavalry is confident it can cater for a larger crowd.