Local sports teams are champing at the bit for covered playing facilities to be built in Delta.
The Leader’s informal poll of coaches and youth sport administrators in the community suggests the pair of artificial turf fields being proposed by the Delta School District would be coveted.
“I think it’s a fabulous idea personally. Gyms aren’t the best venue for a baseball program,“ said North Delta Blue Jays general manager Larry Waddell.
The B.C. Premier Baseball League team currently travels to Richmond and Surrey for indoor practices during the inclement weather seasons.
The Richmond Olympic Oval is one of the facilities the team rents, at a cost that Waddell says is a lot more money than a school gymnasium. And having an affordable and accessible baseball program is an important consideration for Waddell.
But choosing the right practice venue boils down to being able to have the room to swing a bat.
“The biggest issue in baseball right now—not just with us, but across the board—is hitting,” said Waddell. “Players aren’t spending enough time swinging a bat.”
The Blue Jays GM has met with the captain of the covered sports field project, DSD deputy superintendent Garnet Ayres, to talk about the baseball team’s specific needs.
The plans call for four batting cages to be housed inside the 30,000-square-feet facilities. Waddell said the size of the fields is practically ideal for the Blue Jays program.
“The 200-foot distance is good for long toss. The width of [the field] is long enough to run an infield practice,” figured Waddell.
The Blue Jays senior and junior teams would fill up the covered sports fields’ sign up sheet four to six times a week in the wintertime.
A seasoned coach with extensive travel under his belt, Waddell chastised Delta for dropping the ball on creating adequate sports facilities.
“It seems to me, just generally right across the board, Delta has less facilities and poor quality athletic facilities for children and youth than facilities in other municipalities that I see around the province,” said Waddell.
Longtime Delta field hockey coach Neil McLennan echoed Waddell’s sentiments. The Delta Falcons have been campaigning for a dedicated field hockey specific turf in Delta for decades.
“Every artificial turf put in by Delta has been more geared towards soccer,” said McLennan. “We’ve always been looking to upgrade Winskill Park to a field hockey field.”
The club has been collecting a turf fee as part of registration from its players for the last number of years and has about $100,000 saved to help pay for a portion of the estimated $1.5 million needed to construct a flat turf field.
When asked if the Falcons have approached the municipality to explore corporate sponsorship for a new field, McLennan said “it’s not something Delta greets with open arms.”
“Delta Parks has always had concerns about sponsorship—even putting signs up around their field,” said McLennan.
Ken Kuntz, Delta’s director of parks, recreation and culture, isn’t aware of any formal proposal from the Falcons.
“I don’t believe that they [Delta Falcons] have approached us,” said Kuntz. “It’s hard for us to consider something that is theoretical.”
He said the municipality is open to solid business plans that involve corporate partnership. He points to the Tour de Delta, saying the annual cycling race has a significant amount of corporate funding.
On the subject of sports facilities in Delta, Kuntz is aware there are definite desires from the community, but chooses to focus on the inroads that have been made.
“Delta is rather blessed with a number of facilities. That doesn’t mean that we don’t look at the gaps and try to fill those in,” said Kuntz.
He cites the Ladner Sport Field Enhancement Plan, approved by Delta Council last December, which includes a $3.8 million turf field at Dugald Morrison Park.
Indoor recreation in North Delta—which Kuntz said is not being supplied to the same level as it is in South Delta—is another area that is being addressed through the expansion of the North Delta Recreation Centre.
But the bottom line, said Kuntz, is municipal-funded recreation projects have to really benefit the community.
“Land is at a premium. We want to make sure it’s being used 365 days a year and it isn’t too restrictive,” he added.
Delta Sport Council president Barry Howard is praising the idea of covered sports facilities.
“…I can say that anything that would be designed properly with specific sports in mind would be a welcome addition to our community,” said Howard.
The former president of the South Delta basketball program would also like to see a covered facility for hard court sports.
“I know if they had something covered to keep the rain off and a basketball court that we could rent, and lit that we could use in the evenings,” said Howard.
Such a facility could be the impetus for a summer basketball league.
“If you’re away from the sunshine, it would be fantastic,” he said.