by EVAN MATTHEWS
The headline says it all.
The Bill Clark Memorial Park and Ball Diamond in McBride needs upgrades if it’s to continue hosting slo-pitch games and tourneys, and organizers are asking for the Village’s help.
Softball organizers are looking to heighten the fence in order to cut down on the number of fly balls leaving the park, potentially causing injury to the public, or damaging vehicles passing by.
“We’re trying to make it a place for kids and seniors, anyone watching a game,” says Kathy Molendyk, a representative of the McBride Royal Purple and Elks, and an organizer of Robson Valley Softball.
“We hope the Village will consider the importance of the new netting over having… (caution) signs,” she says, noting there are over 60 players involved in the slo-pitch league and another 60 players involved in youth ball.
Two years ago, RCMP unofficially told McBride’s Royal Purple and Elks they had to move the food booth during Pioneer Days to due to the safety concerns, according to Molendyk’s letter to Council.
At the time, McBride’s Royal Purple and Elks made a successful grant application to the regional district to purchase metal extension posts for the much-needed netting or fencing upgrades, according to Molendyk, but unfortunately could not come up with the funds to purchase the netting.
As a result, during last year’s Pioneer Days organizers attached snow fencing to the metal extension posts, according to Molendyk, but the fencing was too heavy and bent a few of the posts.
Some of the poles have been damaged and can no longer be used, she says, and the hope is that the Village will purchase some replacement posts.
The cost for netting is roughly $2,400 — paid for by the Royal Purple and Elks as well as the McBride Old Timers Hockey Club — according to Molendyk, adding it would go up at the end of April — the beginning of baseball season.
The regional district grant of $2,500 regional district was used to purchase the original posts, but if Council passes the motion at the Special Meeting on Apr. 18 the Village will be replacing the damaged posts and paying for a public works staff member to oversee volunteers during the installation.
“We’ll take this back and put a cost to it, and Council can make the decision as to if there is room in the budget for it,” says Chief Administrative Officer Kelley Williams.
“I’m shocked no one has been hurt. People are bigger now, and the technology is better,” – Marty Kelly, player, coach, manager and umpire in McBride for over 20 years
With only six weeks to purchase the replacement posts, get the materials to McBride and install the posts and netting before Pioneer Days — there is less than six weeks, so timeline is tight, according to Molendyk.
Others involved in the ball community agreed that the upgrades are needed now.
“The concerns about public safety and vehicle damage are totally valid,” says Marty Kelly, who has played, coached, managed, organized and umpired both youth and adult softball for over 20 years in McBride.
“I’m shocked no one has been hurt. People are bigger now, and the technology is better, he says.
The current area needing replacement goes from the corner of 2nd and Main Street to the corner near the beer gardens, but Molendyk is asking Council to consider an additional 100 feet to protect the public in the beer gardens.
“There has been a lot of discussion about what to do with the ballpark,” says McBride Mayor Loranne Martin.
“Nobody wants to give up the location… Maybe in Council’s future considerations, we might take some land from Frontage Road and maybe do back-to-back diamonds. Ball tournaments are an economic driver. They bring people to town,” she says.
Back-to-back diamonds are a possible long-term fix, but the problem remains heading into this year’s Pioneer Days, Councillor Thompson says.
Council will make its decision on Apr. 18. The decision came after The Goat’s press deadline. Updates to follow.