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Humanities

- Tom Hawthorne

As general manager of the Vancouver Canadians, UVic grad JC Fraser has dramatically increased seating and boosted attendance at the ballpark.

JC Fraser made strategic moves to improve the fan experience and re-energize the Vancouver Canadians

On game days, you will find JC Fraser greeting fans with a handshake at Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver, arguably the prettiest ball park in the land. He will grab a seat in the grandstand to listen to fan opinions about concession food, parking and ticket prices. “JC is affable and service-oriented,” says Ernest (Kit) Krieger, a season-ticket holder.

Fraser, 36, is general manager of the Vancouver Canadians, a professional minor-league baseball team affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays. Fraser is responsible for finding sponsors and filling seats at the 67-year-old stadium. Last season, the club sold 98 per cent of their tickets. “Little room for growth,” Fraser acknowledges. “In my 11 years with the team, we’ve never shown a trend in the wrong direction, whether that be revenue or attendance.”

Fraser was named executive of the year in the Northwest League in 2015 and one of the Top 40 Under 40 by Business in Vancouver magazine last year. Those are heady achievements for a business-oriented student who graduated from the University of Victoria (BA ’04) by specializing in—“of all things,” he says—French history.

John Campbell Fraser III grew up in Vancouver, the youngest of three children born to a mother who raised funds for a private school and a father who specialized in property law. He played catcher for the Kerrisdale Sea Lions Little League team. After high school, he decided on a whim to register at the University of Victoria. The Napoleonic era became a passion after he was inspired by professor Dr. Rob Alexander, who remembers Fraser favourably as a student “who wasn’t shy about speaking in seminars.”

When not in class, Fraser operated a house-painting franchise. After graduation, he worked in Australia as a diving instructor before travelling through Southeast Asia and on to India and Nepal. He returned to Vancouver and was installing home gyms when his father suggested he apply for an internship at the Canadians. The club had recently been purchased by Jake Kerr, who founded a forestry company, and Jeff Moody, an executive with the A&W hamburger chain. The new owners hired American baseball executive Andy Dunn to be president. Dunn changed the club’s target audience from young, beer drinking men to families seeking affordable entertainment.

One day, Dunn pulled out a napkin on which he sketched out additional seating at the cramped park. Fraser was put in charge of the project, which was completed on time and on budget though he was at times overwhelmed by dual off-season responsibilities in building a grandstand as well as a team. The hey y’all! Porch, named after a sponsoring hard iced tea, and other changes brought the capacity of the ball park from 5,132 to 6,413 seats. This summer Fraser will strive to sell the two per cent of seats surrounding Scotiabank Field that went unoccupied last season.

Meanwhile, Fraser and his wife Felicia are raising two preschool boys—becoming his own target audience. As if life isn’t busy enough, he’s also working on a Masters of Business Administration at Simon Fraser University. While some business students might balk at writing a six-page essay, Fraser is comfortable putting thoughts on paper. “I found an application for my degree,” he says with a laugh.


Tom Hawthorn was the 2014 Harvey S. Southam Lecturer in Journalism and Nonfiction in the Department of Writing.

Fraser's top ballparks snacks:

  • hot dog
  • peanuts
  • sunflower seeds

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Keywords: alumni, sports, athletics, baseball, business, history

People: JC Fraser

Publication: The Torch


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