The new owners of Wilmington Sharks Baseball have big plans to expand the reach of the team.
Matt Perry and Bill Davidson, partners in Kansas-based sports industry support firm National Sports Services, recently purchased the summer collegiate baseball franchise for an undisclosed sum from Brad Smith.
"We've always known that Wilmington's a great and growing market, including the surrounding area," Perry, who lived in Wilmington in the 1990s, said Monday. "And we thought there was a lot of upside potential, bringing in a larger staff and more promotions and enhancing the stadium."
That "upside potential" Perry sees is also "from the standpoint of attracting more fans and driving revenue and being more heavily entrenched in the community," he said.
Perry said he plans to share more future plans at a news conference scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at the home of the Wilmington Sharks, Buck Hardee Field at Legion Stadium, 2149 Carolina Beach Road in Wilmington.
Of National Sports Services, Perry said, "We've worked for over 50 teams over the last 30 years and mainly in the capacity of helping teams enhance their operations. We've also been involved in some stadium development projects and building and selling franchises for clients."
Perry is president of National Sports Services and Davidson is CEO.
Perry said he and his partner have had ownership interest in teams in the past, "but we liked the opportunity of this when we decided to go ahead and jump in and take on the ownership. We're looking at adding capacity and making some aesthetic changes, buying a lot of new equipment to enhance our food and beverage operations. We've restructured the seating behind home plate."
Over the next couple of years, Perry said, the new owners plan to identify a very small group of potential local owners to add to the partnership.
Perry said he sees the Wilmington Sharks appealing to baseball fans and families in and outside of the Port City, considering the team's "bite radius" to include Pender, Brunswick and Columbus counties, in addition to New Hanover County.
"I want people to understand that we're jumping in with both feet and dramatically enhancing our budget because we think there's a lot more we can offer in the region with our family entertainment option in the summer," Perry said. "We'll almost double the operating budget this first year in an effort to really start pounding stakes and showing growth."
He said the team's coaching staff is coming back and the team will have a lot of new players. Mike Kardamis, who has a background in baseball team operations, is coming in as chief revenue officer. Pat Hutchins will remain the general manager, while Sara Goodwin is directing group sales and Carson Bowen is handling ticket operations and other elements, Perry said.
The Wilmington Sharks, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, plays a home opener May 30, according to the team's website