City council has approved relocating all minor baseball games to the Willow Point Park Sportplex by next season, a change made possible by cooperation from several adult user groups using the facilities there.
Campbell River Minor Baseball Association (CRMBA) requested the move in May because of reportedly unsafe conditions at Nunns Creek Park, where they typically played. In response, council approved the request immediately, without waiting for a plan from administration.
U13 and younger teams are now using fields at the Sportsplex for the 2021 season. Council built on its previous decision by approving an additional $3,000 to continue field grooming there to July 31, after CRMBA extended its season.
The older U15 and U18 teams will continue to use Nunns Creek this season and into the fall, because they hit farther and hence require safety netting and fencing — which the Sportsplex lacks — to protect other park users from fly balls.
On June 14, city council selected a ‘temporary’ plan from three options that will see minor baseball relocate to the Sportsplex entirely by 2022.
Stewart Dumont, CRMBA vice-president, commended city council for moving quickly to address the issue.
“Something immediate needed to happen, they acted on that, and now we’re in a place that we need to make some decisions,” he said. “It’s just going to take a little bit of creativity and a little bit of cooperation from all the user groups to make it successful.”
To improve safety at Nunns Creek in the meantime, the RCMP have increased foot patrols and municipal bylaw is also patrolling and conducting clean-ups in the area. Get the Point, a volunteer cleanup and outreach program, is also completing more frequent sweeps of the park, but do not operate on weekends.
The move next year will be made possible by Campbell River Slo Pitch agreeing to relocate most of its games to Nunns Creek Park from the Sportsplex. This swap will require field upgrades at the Sportsplex (costing about $80,000) and Nunns Creek (costing about $57,000) to accommodate baseball and slo pitch at each field, respectively.
“We don’t mind moving to help minor ball, but obviously, there has to be some serious adjustments and investments on the city side to accommodate us,” said Chad Braithwaite, Campbell River Slo Pitch president. “We can’t go from adding four fields at the Sportsplex to having only two fields or less at Nunns Creek — we’re already losing fields from the school district.”
“They’ve been nothing but flexible,” said Dumont.
At the Sportsplex, temporary net fencing are planned at one of the fields, to allow the older minor baseball team to play there in 2022. Portable fencing will also be used to separate ball fields from rugby fields, among other changes.
The necessary modifications at Nunns Creek, particularly the removal of outfield fences, could make it better suited for other events, such as fairs and logger sports, said Dumont.
Further consultation is still needed with other user groups, including rugby, softball and soccer, according to city administration, before an arrangement may be formalized. But CRMBA has committed to working each party to ensure their needs are being met, he said.
For now, it appears Willow Point Park is a natural location to house minor baseball, said Dumont.
“There’s nothing more perfect than when you see all those baseball players at that beautiful facility, with kids playing at the splash park and the bike park,” he said. “It’s almost meant to be.”