Sports

Raiders want community to share special season

Kabel Atwall, V.I. Raiders president, left, and Brian Ridgeway, the team’s coach, are trying to build momentum for the football club’s 10th-anniversary season in the Canadian Junior Football League. - GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin
Kabel Atwall, V.I. Raiders president, left, and Brian Ridgeway, the team’s coach, are trying to build momentum for the football club’s 10th-anniversary season in the Canadian Junior Football League.
— image credit: GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

The V.I. Raiders are embarking on their 10th-anniversary season. It’s the perfect time, in their minds, to remind their fans that the Raiders belong to the community.

The Canadian Junior Football League club has a new coach, park upgrades on the way and a snazzy 10th-anniversary logo. What they want now is more people to join their team.

Kabel Atwall, the club’s new president, said some people think the Raiders are a privately owned team but that’s not the case. As a society, the Vancouver Island Raiders are shared by everyone.

“We’ve always operated as a team before; now we’re starting to operate as an organization … We’re not this closed little circle,” Atwall said. “We need to change that profile and we’re wanting to change that profile and we’re working to change that profile.”

Over 10 years, the Raiders have built a fan base, and they want those fans to be aware that they can be part of the team.

“We don’t want to blow our horns, but we’ve done a lot for raising the profile of the community and we want to involve the community a bit more,” Atwall said.

The V.I. club is seeking season ticket holders, of course, but also society members and volunteers. There are opportunities to help with game-day operations, fundraising, community relations and more. Any new blood, new ideas and new energy can help the Raiders grow, said Brian Ridgeway, the team’s coach.

“There’s lots of room for people to come on board…” he said. “We have to increase our ties to the community before we can do more for the on-field football product.”

It’s an interesting time for the Raiders. They have 10 years of history, and are transitioning into the next 10 and beyond. They want to make a big deal out of their 10th season. They’re putting together an alumni association and are planning homecoming celebrations for their home opener on Aug. 16.

The season ticket launch has been delayed since the Raiders don’t know how their new bleachers will be numbered, but they’re beginning to envision how game days might look at a renovated Caledonia Park.

“We’re interested to find out,” Atwall said. “Part of it is going to be how the stands are set up. I think it will probably be more inclusive, everybody mixing a little bit more. We’re going to make it as good an experience as we can.”

The Raiders are expected to win and motivated to win, as always. Ridgeway said the on-field product “will not drop at all,” and said things are looking really good.

What will fill the new stands? Well, football is an exciting sport to begin with, Ridgeway said, and wins and good competition help.

“The difference between a well-thought-out game plan and executed game compared to one that isn’t is very obvious,” said the coach. “It looks polished and runs smoothly and the hits are loud and the catches are spectacular – that’s by design, because things are going right.

“When everything is rolling and tight, it’s awesome.”

Whether fans join the team or fill the stands, they’ll be part of a milestone season and maybe, something special. The Canadian Bowl will be in B.C. in 2014 and the Raiders just happen to be making park improvements to get playoff-ready.

Football season is months away, but the Raiders are brimming with excitement. They can’t wait for their 10th-anniversary season because they’ve experienced 10 great years since they first started out such a long time ago, such a short time ago.

“It seems like it was yesterday, man,” said Karim Maher, assistant coach. “It’s amazing how it flies.”

GRID BITS … To learn more, please search for the V.I. Raiders on Facebook. For season ticket info, please call 250-760-0058.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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