As of May 29, the Sandlot (accessible) Baseball Field Project, located beside Dr. J.H. Gillis Regional High School, was well into the “excitement” phase.
“For the first month and a half, it was a lot of prep work, so it wasn’t overly exciting to see; it needed to be done but not that exciting,” Randy Crouse, the local, provincial and national co-ordinator of Challenge Baseball, said.
“But, over the last week, we’ve seen concrete for the dugouts go in, seen the pads for the stands go in, we’ve seen the fencing go up, the sod laid down; so it’s starting to look like a ball field now … it’s exciting to see.”
Crouse added the outfield sod being laid into place was especially noteworthy, since it might be the last piece of infrastructure which will be ready for play.
“The outfield going in now is nice because we thought, originally, that might be one of the last things they did. After it’s in, it takes a good six to seven weeks to set; so the fact it’s going in now is nice because it means a little more time for the grass to set, so we can get on it earlier.
“So we’re still looking at another two or three weeks [of work] but we only had a couple of bad days of rain, so a little bit of a set back there but, for the most part, we’re on track,” Crouse said, talking to the Casket May 29.
He noted there have been a couple of little tweaks, here and there, as builders took advantage of a little extra space.
“More space in certain areas than they expected, so tweaked for added safety, accessibility,” he said. “We’ve doing that every week; reassessing, seeing what we can add. It’s a little bit on an increased cost but we, kind of, expected that along the way.”
The total cost of the project is $450,000 and Town of Antigonish councillor Mary Farrell, chair of the recreation committee, provided a breakdown in the funding. The list includes; Town of Antigonish $70,000, Municipality of the County of Antigonish $50,000, Jays Care Foundation $150,000; from grants $50,000 and community fundraising $130,000.
“Randy and his team of associates were absolutely amazing and if you get a chance to thank them, please do,” Farrell said during her committee report at council’s regular, monthly public meeting May 27.
“We have wonderful people in this community who make our community even better,” she added, noting work also includes “up-grades to field two.”
Crouse also expressed appreciation for the amount of support the project has received.
“From the community near and far,” he said enthusiastically.
“There are our regulars, people who have been around since we started, and there are people who don’t really know much about Challenger Baseball, about the field, but they heard it’s a good idea and have helped. Big businesses, small businesses, the support has been excellent,” he said, noting he has put together a list of contributors three pages long on his computer.
“You don’t even start doing something like this unless you think you have the support of the community and, obviously, Antigonish, we’re a small community but we’re pretty supportive of everything that is around. We knew, right away, we could do this.
“A lot of other places which have accessible fields; Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto, Moncton, are bigger areas, so the fact we could do this in Antigonish goes to show just how supportive our area is.”
A grand opening weekend is planned for July 19 to 21, with Saturday featuring representatives from the Jays Care Foundation in town for an event, expected to be covered by national TV network Sportsnet.
“We’re hoping to have a lot of fun activities going on there,” Crouse said of the special weekend.
“That’s the big one [date], we want to make sure we’re on the field for that; anything ahead of that would be extra. As long as we’re ready to go for that weekend, we’ll be pleased.”