Lunch with Andy Dunn

Andy Dunn, Vancouver Canadians | BCBusiness

When it comes to marketing America’s pastime in B.C., Vancouver Canadians Baseball president Andy Dunn says his success lies in selling memories

While talking hotdogs, Andy Dunn tends to stretch his arms out wide. The president of Vancouver Canadians Baseball is explaining how a joke morphed into a two-foot-long game- day staple that outsells peanuts at the 60-year-old Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver’s Little Mountain neighbourhood.

“It was meant to be tongue-in-cheek,” the 43-year-old recalls. It began when the Vancouver Sun included the stadium’s root beer floats as part of a fat database it compiled. “I was thinking I could really give them something to write about.” He doesn’t suggest people eat the hotdogs—which require a specialist butcher and baguette—every night, but “it’s all about having a little fun at the ballpark,” he says, while notably eating a salad at Chaise Lounge in Vancouver.

The big hotdog may have been born from a bit of snark, but the move epitomizes Dunn’s marketing mojo. The Florida native’s two-decade career includes stints as the director of marketing with the Chicago Cubs AA affiliate in Orlando; vice-president for the Florida operations of the Montreal Expos; and vice-president of ballpark operations for the Washington Nationals baseball franchise. When I suggest it was a coup for a minor-league operation in Vancouver to attract such major-league calibre, he cuts me off. “I’ve heard that; I don’t really see it,” he says. “Self-importance is such a dangerous thing. Titles aren’t important, but working with good people really is.”

For him, this was at the crux of his decision to land here five years ago after mutual friends introduced him to the Canadians’ owners Jake Kerr and Jeff Mooney who had just bought the team. “I’ve worked in enough places that you realize you better enjoy—and trust—the people you work for, and that you have like minds.”

It’s a synergistic trifecta that’s paying off. Amid the reinvented hotdogs came a new logo, new mascots and uniforms, plus a naming-rights deal for the stadium to be called Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium. The club has seen four consecutive years of record attendance (some 162,000 fans in 2012) and won the Northwest League Championship in 2011 and 2012 (the first time the franchise has enjoyed back-to-back championships). Significantly, the minor league Short Season “A” league team is also an affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, acting as a farm club for players going into the major league.

“The operation was in a holding pattern and we’re not holding-pattern kind of guys so we thought we’d have some fun with it,” he says. “We’re really in the memory and entertainment business—you likely won’t remember the score of the ball game, but you would remember the two-foot hotdog, catching a foul ball or getting some autographs.”

Despite being a four-year letterman on the Catamount Baseball team after winning a baseball scholarship to Western Carolina University, Dunn realized early that his skills lay in the business end of the game. “When you’re only a marginally talented player, you have to find something else to do,” says the sport management graduate. “If you’re not realistic, someone else will be for you.”

The downtown Vancouver resident learned to embrace winter by taking up skiing, but regularly returns to the warmth of Florida to see his wife, Kristi, whom he met in college, and their three daughters, aged 15, 13 and nine. After moving with him initially, they returned to the U.S. to be closer to extended family. While it may not be ideal, he says, “I’ve always been away a lot with the teams, so it’s not unusual.” And it’s certainly a testament to how much he loves the C’s and Vancouver. “I have a dream job in an awesome city.”

Andy Dunn’s Favourites

1. “I love the Louisiana crawfish at Cray Kitchen + Bar (2470 Main St., Vancouver; They sell it by the pound and it’s unbelievable. I’m a Southern guy who likes barbecue food, so that reminds me of home for sure.”

2. “I’ve never had a bad meal at Joe Fortes (777 Thurlow St., Vancouver; It’s so welcoming and the people there are fantastic. I’m a creature of habit so I always have the king crab tempura appetizer and the steak—I like my meat and veg.”

3. “For a good business meal with a great view, the Cactus Club Cafe on the waterfront in Coal Harbour (1085 Canada Pl., Vancouver; is an unbelievable place. I’d been waiting for it to open earlier this year and it’s been worth it. I just love it.”