Council will hear updated considerations for the renovation of McCulley Robertson Sports Complex. (Doug Crosse Photo)
A report on the expansion of baseball facilities from July is back in front of Huntsville Council this week.
It was four months ago when a recommendation was made to council to look at a $2.1 million dollar renovation of McCulley Robertson Sportsplex.
A decision was made at that time to get some more feedback from user groups and have the consultant, WSP make additional recommendations.
November 7th, members of the Huntsville baseball community, soccer, disc golf, and curling sat down to discuss future needs.
The report submitted to council in July made recommendations that offered a different hybrid infield mix, no warning tracks, no new LED light systems and an add-on item of outfield irrigation for an extra $120,000.
Peter Haynes is the President of the Huntsville Hornets Baseball club and was at the meeting. He is worried the concerns they put forward at the meeting will not be considered at the upcoming council meeting.
He says the main items the baseball community would like to see have to do with the composition of the infield and having a warning track on all four diamonds.
Haynes says the current surface at the over 30-year-old complex is not up to standard.
“This is not a standard diamond surface,” he contends. “I don’t particularly care for it.
“That is particularly embarrassing when we (host out of town teams) at our tournaments.”
He says it is more of a sandy mix than other diamonds throughout the sport uses. He says Bracebridge’s baseball facilities have a proper infield mix with a clay composition.
“After a few games (the McCulley Robertson) diamonds are extremely tired,” he explains. “It is the lack of durability and then it creates ruts around the diamond, leading to baseballs and softballs hitting a rut and potentially injuring a player.”
“It’s not a safe surface,” says Haynes.
Haynes says the various baseball clubs in the area can produce up to 10 top athletes annually that will go on to provincial standard college ball or even opportunities at US schools. He is concerned some promising futures could be at risk with the substandard surface.
“You think to yourself if one of those kids who want to play at a higher level had a serious injury on that field that’s going to come back on being a safety problem,” he says.
The updated report to council notes a possible solution would be to try a variety of mixes on the four diamonds and see which works best.
For Haynes, there is one surface made by a company in Ontario that would be the ultimate solution, but he understands there are other factors at play.
Haynes did hear concerns about the parks and recreation department being able to maintain the clay-based infield surface and warning track. He says in Bracebridge’s Kerr Park and Peake Fields maintenance is not an issue and they have Washington ball mix.
He also understands that some taxpayers may not view the upgrade of the complex as a priority but he says 30 years of almost no upgrades to the facilities equals about $75,000 a year that wasn’t being spent over that time.
He also brings a compelling economic argument to the table for those who may struggle to justify spending over $2 million on a baseball complex.
Haynes says the out of town visitor traffic the various tournaments hosted in the area over the summer months can have a local economic benefit of nearly a million dollars.
“We had 166 teams with 2,000 athletes come to our tournaments last year,” he explains. “Plus minor officials, volunteers and they are buying gas, staying at hotels, going to dinner.”
The local baseball leagues have 75 teams that play in various competitions from kids through adults that also pay fees to the recreation department.
Council is expected to discuss the updated recommendations from consultants WSP and make a decision on whether or not to include the baseball upgrade into the 2019 budget.