Mayoral candidate Eric Nyvall says the city should move quicker to address the paucity of baseball fields in Abbotsford.
In a Facebook post last week, Nyvall said a baseball complex should be built at DeLair Park. But Mayor Henry Braun says the city is balancing competing interests and any ambitious plan like that suggested would require a substantial monetary investment.
For years, baseball groups have been calling for more fields.
Earlier this year, Steve Coleman of the Abbotsford Angels Hardball Association told The News that the lack of a central location with multiple fields makes it hard to attract teams to revenue-generating tournaments.
“Without enough fields available, we are pitted against each other trying to show why one organization needs the fields more than the other,” Coleman said in February.
Nyvall said he had been told that two new diamonds could be added at the existing park, replacing a pair of rarely used soccer fields. His Facebook post says those diamonds could then be part of an expanded sports complex in the future. He told The News he first heard the idea from Coun. Les Barkman.
In Abbotsford’s 2016 Official Community Plan, fields surrounding DeLair Park were designated as one of two “special study areas” to be examined as a possible site for a community-wide sports park. But the parcels are in the Agricultural Land Reserve and would require the city applying to the Agricultural Land Commission for exclusion.
Nyvall told The News he would support an application to remove the land surrounding DeLair from the ALR.
But such an application would be controversial and may be unlikely to succeed; earlier this year, the ALC denied the city’s request to yank land out of the ALR in order to provide room for industry.
Nyvall’s post included images of another complex with four large, lit baseball fields. Incumbent mayor Henry Braun said committing to such a project would also mean committing to its cost.
He noted the city recently completed its parks, recreation and culture master plan, which sets the stage for future capital projects, and said the city must balance a range of demands for sports facilities.
“Now comes the implementation phase,” he said. “It’s a little tough to hear we’re not moving fast enough.”
The city’s parks plan lists eight current baseball diamonds, although those range in quality. DeLair is listed as having two diamonds but one is tiny and usable only by very-young players.
The plan does suggest increasing the number of ball fields at Grant Park from one to three. It’s unclear, though, what sizes of diamonds would be possible at the park, which is located just west of Clearbrook Road and adjacent to Highway 1.
Nyvall also suggested the city should try to join with a partner to bring a team playing in the West Coast League (WCL) to the site. The WCL is a collegiate summer league that gives university ballplayers a place to compete in the off-season. Teams in Victoria and Kelowna play against nine other squads spread around Oregon and Washington.
With Nyvall first inaccurately describing the WCL as a “professional league,” fellow mayoral candidate Gerda Peachey said the city “needs to get out of the sports and entertainment business.”