The City of Port Alberni is planning to make some improvements to its outdoor sports facilities in time to host a national baseball tournament next year.
Representatives from the Port Alberni Cubs Oldtimers Baseball Club appeared before city council on Monday, Oct. 24 to present an opportunity for the city to host the 2023 Canadian National Oldtimers Baseball Federation Championship in August of next year.
The championship will involve two divisions (55+ and 60+) totalling 12-20 teams.
Baseball has seen a revival in Port Alberni over the past two years, explained Rob Ivezich of the Oldtimers, after the Port Alberni Cubs team was formed in early 2021.
“This baseball rebirth in Port Alberni has brought the attention of the national body,” said Ivezich. “As a result, they were compelled and excited to make us an early offer to host the national event next summer.”
Ivezich says the diamonds at Lon Miles Field and Recreation Park are the only ones that will meet the requirements for the event, although they both need a number of upgrades.
Willa Thorpe, the city’s parks and recreation manager, told council on Monday that the baseball diamonds at Lon Miles and Recreation Park are scheduled for routine repair work starting this fall, which includes leveling infield grass, repairing lights and installing netting. If Port Alberni hosts this championship, additional work will be required to prepare the two baseball diamonds, including scoreboard repair, drainage, bullpens, fencing and painting.
The estimated cost for the extra work is $240,000. Council committed on Monday to support the tournament and complete the work needed to improve the ball fields, although the source of the funding was not determined during Monday’s meeting.
Ivezich said the club is currently looking into corporate sponsorship, and the city is looking into grant opportunities to help fund the improvements.
“Volunteers are essential to an event of this magnitude,” said Thorpe. “I see our unionized workforce working closely alongside the event organizers and volunteers to make this event a reality.”
Councillor Ron Paulson, who has experience in bringing the World U17 Hockey Challenge to Port Alberni in 2009, says the community expense of large sporting events is often outweighed by the economic benefits to the community.
“The $240,000 might look like a lot of money,” he said. “But I think it’s great to put [Port Alberni] out there and show the nation what we can do.”
Mayor Sharie Minions noted that she has received a number of complaints recently about the condition of the fields in Port Alberni and said she would like to see the city—and the regional district—look into how recreation improvements are generally funded.