Knocking it out of the park: Baseball WA CEO on the Perth Heat, stadium upgrades and the sport’s growth

Baseball WA CEO Lachlan Dale at Perth Ballpark. Photo: David Baylis.
Baseball WA CEO Lachlan Dale at Perth Ballpark. Photo: David Baylis.

BASEBALL WA chief executive Lachlan Dale says their new base in Thornlie gives them the perfect launching pad to help them capitalise on the sport’s growth.

Having renewed their lease at Perth Ballpark, Baseball WA is confident Thornlie is the perfect home for them to foster signs of promising growth.

Coupled with the new lease is a $6 million upgrade to Perth Ballpark, including an increase in capacity, the construction of a permanent grandstand in place of a current temporary stand and refurbished change rooms.

Dale said the upgrades would transform the home of the Perth Heat into the best baseball stadium in the country.

He also believed Perth Ballpark could be more than just baseball stadium and could cater to the various needs of the local community.

“Once we finish the development, we’ll be set up for an international stadium, the best in the country, where we’ll be able to host professional baseball teams,” he said.

“With the upgrades, we’ve got the ability to host other events for the community, whether it be concerts, children’s fairs or other sports.”

The stadium’s proximity to the planned new Nicholson Road Station (merely a stone’s throw away) is also a bonus.

“I think this is going to bring a new type of spectator to the ballpark, we’re somewhat restricted with transport getting in,” Dale said.

“Having that precinct – you see it with other sports – where you’ve got a sporting stadium, train station and public transport plus restaurants, cafes, it helps attract people.”

Baseball Park in Thornlie, home of the Perth Heat and Baseball WA. Photo: David Baylis.

Baseball WA also plan on moving into the vacant Tom Bateman House next door to the stadium and using it as an administrative base and museum.

“Currently, we don’t have anywhere to store memorabilia or history of the game and it’d be great to use that foyer an opportunity to tell everyone about the WA baseball story since 1936,” Dale said.

WA’s bright baseball future

Dale says junior participation and the ability to provide an international pathway means baseball has a bright future in Australia.

According to the chief executive, steadily improving numbers at grassroots level, coupled with the international appeal of the sport meant baseball was starting to gain a foothold in a packed WA sporting landscape.

The 2018 AusPlay survey estimated 34,900 children and 40,400 adults played baseball across Australia, with an additional 10,900 estimated teeball participants.

Baseball’s participation among children has grown an estimated 20% nationally since 2016 and Dale said they realised early they could capitalise on the unique, family-friendly atmosphere Perth Heat games provided.

“We want to grow the game from a participation and supporter fanbase,” he said. “Parents can bring their kids down, they run across the outfield in the outfield dash, chase foul balls and get to keep them.”

“You can’t take your kids to Optus Stadium and let them roam free. Baseball has that unique experience where it’s in a safe environment and we’ll never lose sight of that. I think that’s the number one key of ensuring a really sound and stable fanbase.”

Baseball WA CEO Lachlan Dale is confident they can capitalise on the sport’s growth. Photo: David Baylis.

Despite their slow but steady rise in popularity, Dale said the Heat still faced a challenge to make an imprint on a WA sporting landscape dominated by the Eagles, Dockers and Scorchers.

However, he was confident the game would continue to grow when, not if, it makes it back onto television.

“It’ll grow from a participation base extremely and I think we’ll see the rise and re-introduction of baseball onto mainstream TV, which has been a gap for the last 20 years.”

Dale said the international appeal of baseball – the Heat themselves already have a partnership with Major League Baseball side Tampa Bay Rays – was a tantalising prospect for the next generation.

“For kids to be able to go on a pathway and be able to play and travel the world as baseball is it’s vehicle, it’s exciting and very unique.”