West Coast League teams book a number of rooms at the official hotel of the Ridgefield Raptors
VANCOUVER — The sales manager describes the hotel’s location as a “nice, tucked away area in Salmon Creek.”
The Ridgefield Raptors call it a perfect spot.
Together, they have created quite a team.
The Holiday Inn Express in Salmon Creek is the hotel for all the opponents who come to Clark County to take on the Raptors in West Coast League baseball.
It is just another piece of a big puzzle in running a baseball organization. The games are the attraction, but there is so much more than balls and strikes. There are also business relationships that make it all possible.
As a new team in the WCL, the Raptors had to work all offseason in finding partners.
For hotel accommodations, all WCL teams are required to book 10 rooms for a visiting team, and the hotel must include a free breakfast, according to Gus Farah, the team’s general manager.
He called around, hoping to find the right hotel.
Eventually, he found Prasert Smith, the sales manager at the Holiday Inn Express.
“He discussed what he needed, and I felt really strong about making something work,” Smith said. “This was a big deal. They were new to the community and it would be beneficial to work something out. Seeing how we could work together was important to me.”
Farah was getting frustrated until he talked to Smith. Other operations, he said, just did not understand what the Raptors were trying to accomplish.
Ridgefield Raptors (15-15 WCL)
This week: The Raptors got a sacrifice fly from Jonny Weaver and a run-scoring double from Cameron Repetti late Wednesday in a three-run 14th inning to win on the road in Victoria, B.C. 8-5. The two teams are set to travel to Clark County for a game Thursday in Ridgefield. The Raptors took two of three in Victoria.
Next home games: The Raptors play the next four days at the RORC. One game against Victoria on Thursday (6:35 p.m.), then a three-game series with the Cowlitz Black Bears. Friday and Saturday are 6:35 p.m. starts and Sunday’s game begins at 3:05 p.m.
Promotional: On Friday, the first 500 fans receive a glow-in-the-dark megaphone, courtesy of Evergreen Home Loans. On Saturday, fans will receive drawstring bags, courtesy the Vancouver Clinic. And on Sunday, it’s Sunday Fun Day. Children 10 and under get in free with a paid adult.
He wanted two things: A decent rate, understanding that the hotel was going to get 10 rooms booked for at least two nights on almost every home series for the Raptors. And he also was hoping the hotel would sponsor the Raptors, so the Raptors could show off that this is the hotel of the Raptors.
“I believed in all of it,” Smith said.
They started working together last fall. Smith got approval from the hotel owners, and it was time to get to work.
So far, the Raptors have had five home series that required hotel stays for visiting teams.
“I haven’t come across a bad one,” said Jen Thomas, who works at the front desk and helps check in the teams.
“They are nice, very respectful, and they clean up after themselves, too,” Thomas said.
Sometimes the players use the lobby to hang out late after games. They play cards but are quiet and courteous to other guests and hotel staff.
“They say ‘Thank you, ma’am’ and ‘Yes, ma’am.’ I just say, ‘Please don’t call me ma’am,’” Thomas said.
Sports teams and hotels do not always have the right chemistry. Smith said youth teams, and the rowdy parents that come with them, can get out of hand.
There have been no real problems with any of the WCL teams that have checked in this season.
“The staff says, ‘Bring them back. Bring them back.’ That’s good to hear,” Smith said. “We’ve had a wonderful experience.”
Smith has a schedule so she knows well in advance when a team is expected to arrive. There is a block of rooms at the “decent rate” that was negotiated. If a team needs more rooms, and there are more available, the hotel works with the team.
Farah said he is in constant contact with Smith and the hotel.
“How’s it going?” he asks. “I want to make sure we are accountable to her.”
So far, nothing bad to report. In baseball terms, no errors.
“Prasert and I have built a relationship of trust,” Farah said. “We could not be happier. We hit a home run in finding Prasert and Holiday Inn Express … I think we have the best hotel in the West Coast League in terms of amenities, quality, and location.”
Oh yes, that location. It is about eight miles from the hotel to the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex.
Smith said whenever other guests check in and ask about any area attractions, she tells them if the Raptors are in town.
“Go watch a game,” she says.
Cheer for the Raptors, but also give a salute to the opponents. They are doing right by the WCL, and the Raptors with their professional attitudes at the Holiday Inn Express.