Nov 21, 2022
Believing it will help raise the community’s profile, as well as boost interest in the sport itself, Chatham-Kent councillors threw their support behind an agreement to bring an Intercounty Baseball League team to town.
Council unanimously approved the five-year deal during Monday’s meeting, the first held in person at the civic centre since early 2020.
The team will play at an upgraded Fergie Jenkins Field at Rotary Park but won’t take the field until the 2024 season.
“I think it’s a very exciting opportunity for the municipality here,” said Mayor Darrin Canniff, noting team team could bring more visitors to Chatham-Kent, including players and spectators.
“There’s hundreds of communities in the province and there’s a lot bigger than ours, and they picked us.”
In early 2020, Dom Dinelle, the owner of the team, approached municipal staff to propose establishing a baseball franchise in the municipality.
Although the team will play in Chatham, Canniff said the name will reflect all of Chatham-Kent.
Established in 1919, the Intercounty Baseball League has players with experience in major professional leagues, as well as elite NCAA college programs.
It presently comprises eight teams in Ontario and operates under rules similar to Major League Baseball.
Dinelle originally targeted 2023 for the team’s inaugural season, but the league deadline for playing next year has since passed.
League owners already voted 8-0 in principle to add a Chatham-Kent team pending a deal with the municipality.
The initial capital costs of $195,500 will be funded from the Hydro One community benefit contribution reserve.
These items are required to be purchased in 2023 to be installed prior to the 2024 baseball season. Operating and lifecycle costs will be included in the 2024 budget since the team won’t start playing until April of that year.
Upgrades include wind screening to reduce sight lines and encourage ticket sales through a perimeter fence tarp around the stadium; a batter’s eye screen behind the pitcher; a portable backstop for safety; diamond grooming equipment; and two bleachers accommodating approximately 250 seats each.
“It’s a small investment and it’s going to be something that we all can share, no matter where we live in Chatham-Kent,” Canniff said.
According to the staff report, the agreement ensures the team would work with current baseball user groups.
Chatham Coun. Brock McGregor said he believes the league presence will have a positive impact.
“We want our recreational facilities to be used and used well,” he said. “I think it’s a great step for our community.”
Commitment of certain times of use of Fergie Jenkins Field for games, promotional activities, clinics and practices in co-ordination with Chatham Minor Baseball.
Use of locker rooms, laundry, medical room and storage within Memorial Arena.
The baseball club shall have the right to sell food and alcohol, subject to obtaining necessary permits and inspections.
The club shall have a right to sell advertising for various parts of the field and stands.
The parties may perform certain facility improvements, after negotiations are completed, with current capital improvements.
The club will have a right to request a multi-year renewal of the agreement, but the terms shall be open to negotiation.
Field maintenance, insurance, compliance with laws and various standard legal provisions.