An old ballpark in Nelson is receiving some big league love.
The Toronto Blue Jays announced Friday that the Nelson Baseball Association is one of the recipients of its 12 Field Of Dreams grants this year.
The Jays are donating $117,000 to the ongoing restoration of Nelson’s Queen Elizabeth Park, which Nelson Baseball began a three-year overhaul of last October.
“I think it’s amazing,” said Nelson Baseball president Dwane Sorenson. “I haven’t seen one of those in the interior of B.C. yet. I just think it’s really cool to be recognized for the unique field that we have.
“It’s an amazing field and when it’s dressed up it’s gonna be I don’t think there’ll be anything better in the Kootenays.”
Nelson is the only B.C. community to receive this year’s grant. The $1.1 million investment is also being shared with communities in Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.
A spokesperson for the Jays Care Foundation said Nelson Baseball’s application stood out for its vision and commitment to youth.
“This has been a challenging year for many, particularly children and youth. We are pleased that these grants will give them something to look forward to and the ability to reconnect with their peers through the game of baseball on their local diamonds,” said Jays Care executive director Robert Witchel in a statement.
The Jays Care Foundation said in its announcement it has committed nearly $7 million to 68 Canadian community infrastructure projects over the last five years.
“With this year’s recipients spanning from British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador, we are excited to continue a legacy of investing in community infrastructure across the country,” said Witchel.
Queen Elizabeth Field, which was named in 1953 to commemorate the queen’s coronation, had been in dire need of renovations for years prior to the start of the current work.
A new warning track, foul poles, outfield fence and backstop netting have already been installed, and construction is underway on a rebuilt infield and dugouts as well as batting cages.
Nelson Baseball also plans to install new bleachers, resurface the old ones, place new sod, add an equipment building and a new digital scoreboard.
The organization has received $321,200 to complete the project, which also includes: $56,500 has come from in-kind contributions; $51,000 from the Regional District of Central Kootenay; $32,500 from cash donations; $27,500 from Columbia Basin Trust, $20,000 from the City of Nelson, $13,700 from BC Tire Stewardship and $3,000 from Kal Tire.
The donation from Canada’s only major league team was good news for Nelson Baseball, which had to scrap its little league season due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Sorenson credited Nelson Baseball treasurer Jim Sevigny for his fundraising efforts in making the dream of a new ballpark come true.
“Jim’s put a lot of work into it,” said Sorenson. “I mean, he’s driven the project. It wouldn’t happen without him.”
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