By Greg Price
Taber Recreation Board has recommended to town council that the fourth ball diamond be considered for completion at Ken McDonald Memorial Sports Park. User groups who use the facility be contacted and receive information from them on the benefits of a completed diamond.
“Get those guys to come to a meeting and come to us and try to persuade us and give us a good argument to go to council,” said Luke Wijna, chairperson for the Taber Recreation Board at the board’s June 4 meeting.
“If you have someone coming from the softball associations saying ‘hey, we have a possibility of running three huge tournaments next year and the NSA (National Softball Association) wants to come here, that helps us make a decision,” added Randy Sparks, town councillor and recreation board member.
“But when we don’t hear those things, we see these figures and say I don’t know, this is a lot of money.”
Taber Recreation Board members were presented with two different types of quotes that were obtained for the completion of the fourth diamond at Ken McDonald Memorial Sports Park as directed by town council at one of its earlier meetings.
The first being a cost of $382,311 from a prime contractor that specializes in that type of sports facility. The second quote was for $235,179 from local contractors doing separate jobs involving the diamond.
“I took the blueprints form the biggest diamond right across at Ken McDonald and sent them to a prime contractor that would do the whole project. That was the specs that we had, the same backstop, the same dugouts and the same fence and same size (as largest existing diamond at Ken McDonald Memorial Sports Park” said Trent Smith, recreation supervisor for the Town of Taber. “Along with option one, I took it in-house and looked around town for general contractors. Keep in mind, for all of these, I have no geo-technical information, I have no subsoil testing. These are all costs based on assumptions.”
Along with the cost estimates, recreation board members were give user group tracking forms. There has been a significant drop in ball youth teams to eight in 2015, from 17 in 2007. There has been no men’s or ladies slo-pitch teams in Taber since 2004. Numbers in mixed slo-pitch have been consistent over the years. There are two high school ball teams with one girls softball team.
“Part of the premise behind completing the quad was we might get some of these teams back. I don’t know if that’s actually the case,” said Aline Holmen, recreation manager for the Town of Taber. “You look at our field schedule, and in every day of the week there are diamonds that sit empty. I know bringing this to the rec board there is the mentality ‘build it, and they will come.’ But I don’t know if that’s the case in this situation.”
Wijna noted he would throw his support behind building the fourth diamond at Ken McDonald Memorial Sports Park if he knew it was going to be used.
Recreation board member Darcy Firth added the potential is there for the diamond to be used in consulting with interest groups.
“I know that the big softball organizations in SPN and NSA, they themselves put on tournaments in communities. They could run a 32-tam tournament. I know we are telling team they can’t come because of our limited abilities,” said Firth. “You could see the potential up to six tournaments with 36 teams come. Will it happen every year? I don’t know, I just know it’s something these organizations throw money into.”
Firth also added Diamond #2 at Confederation Park after it was built is causing sight line problems.
“Diamond #2 used to be our feature diamond for years. Because it’s a west-facing diamond, players are already battling the sun. They can adjust to that, but what’s really bad is the trees and since some of the buildings have gone up there, it’s created a backdrop so that the balls are blending into the buildings as well and the trees are causing some big shadows,” said Firth. “Those infielders, the pitchers, first basemen, second basemen, they do not seeing the ball coming. Any line drives, they don’t see coming. When big left-handed hitters come up there, I cringe. I’m a left-handed hitter and I’ve hit some people who haven’t seen the ball coming. Also, with the skatepark there, we are hitting the concrete with some of our (home run) balls. I’ve hit the concrete going opposite field. It has been a concern. I’d like to see that diamond gone and see another diamond utilized elsewhere.”
Firth added it does not matter to him if it’s a ball diamond or soccer pitch that is constructed out there, he just wants to see the facility completed.
“That facility is closing in on being 20 years old and we still have an open area there, whatever that area is best utilized for the town, that’s what i want to see. I just want to see the park finished off,” said Firth. “Is this considered a project like the walking path? Are we community that has projects started? It’s great to have all this stuff, finish off the ones we have that are ongoing and then start to look at other ones. I look at it as a project not finished whether it’s a soccer pitch or a baseball diamond or extra camping, just something to take away from that empty area.”
Wijna added volunteer groups could be consulted much like when Ken McDonald Memorial Sports Park was first constructed to see if costs could be lowered through community efforts much like the recent skateboard park and spray park initiatives.
“These figures are daunting to complete a ball diamond that may be used. There may be a men’s league that comes back, who knows? Will it bring a whole bunch of people here? It may, it may not,” said Sparks.
Discussions among board members was to table it until the results of the recreation master plan are tabulated, but Sparks noted a fourth diamond would likely be low on the list.
“I think this is a worthwhile project even though I am not a ballplayer. The complex should be completed,” said Sparks. “I honestly believe that if that is built that maybe the people who are involved in these organizations will have more of a desire to bid on tournaments that the four-plex (quad) could use. There’s the potential there.”