The opening weekend games for the Sylvan Lake Gulls sold out in a matter of minutes, as fans from across Central Alberta clamber to cheer on the newest team in the Western Canadian Baseball League.
The Gulls have faced a lot of uncertainty leading up to the opening game of the inaugural season. From construction concerns to COVID-related season concerns, the Gulls have had to take each problem head in their inaugural season.
Aqil Samuel, general manager and president of baseball operations for the Gulls, says he is happy to be able to stand on the field and to welcome guests on June 18.
“If you had said we would be here now even three days ago, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Samuel joked.
Construction at Gulls Field continues, despite the first game on the season taking place Friday evening.
The parking lot is not yet paved, and the building housing the bathrooms, concession stands and media room also won’t be ready until early July. For the opening games, port-o-potties will be brought in as well as food trucks.
“To be honest, when fans come in the gate it won’t be the experience we wanted them to have. We have had a lot of set backs and the weather hasn’t helped, but we will give our fans a fun and exciting game of baseball,” Samuel said.
Gulls owners Graham and Jen Schetzsle agreed with Samuel, adding they are grateful for the patience and support fans have given the team.
“We aren’t where we wanted to be, but we are rolling with it and taking it all one step at a time,” Graham Schetzsle said.
Because of complications to construction, and with a late change to a Canadian-player only season, the Gulls first stepped on the field for practice Thursday night.
Gulls Head Coach Jason Chatwood, said the team is ready and excited to take to the field and play “some exciting baseball.”
“We are going to get the guys out [Thursday night] and get them used to the field and just have fun,” Chatwood said.
There were some complications with the sale of tickets when they opened on June 13. In the first 45 minutes the tickets were available, 2,000 individuals were on the site trying to get their hands on one of the 144 tickets available.
Because of the large demand for tickets when they went on sale at noon, many were stalled at the checkout and lost out on the very limited tickets.
“It was solely a supply and demand problem. We should have it sorted out for the next games,” said Jen Schetzsle.
“The site is built on a foot print that we can expand up to about 3,000 spectators. If we continue to see this level of support we will be able to expand moving forward,” Graham Schetzsle added.
The Gulls will be live streaming the games for the fans unable to make it to the home games. For the entire 2021 season, the live streamed games will be free for fans to view.
Chatwood says his team will provide an exciting experience for fans, and he is excited to bring this level of baseball to Sylvan Lake and Central Alberta.
The Gulls will take on the Edmonton Prospects in the home opener at Gull Field Friday night. The first pitch is thrown at 6:05 p.m.
Fans who were unable to get their hands on tickets for the opening game, can watch online through the team’s website, www.sylvanlakegulls.com and clicking on the live stream link on the home page.