Artificial lighting is the difference between a community baseball field and a stadium capable of hosting provincial, national, and even international events.
Nanaimo Minor Baseball Association hopes to make Serauxmen Stadium on Third Street a choice place to host high-calibre tournaments.
Patricia Huggins, coordinator of the association’s fundraising campaign, said the group needs about $400,000 to install game-calibre lighting.
For tournaments like the Canada Cup, lights are required as a contingency in case of extra innings, she said. Coming back the next day to finish a game because the teams ran out of daylight is not an option.
“There has to be an ability to finish the game,” said Huggins.
The Hub City Paving Pirates premier-league team played Tuesday night at Serauxmen Stadium. The game against the Victoria Mariners went into extra innings, and if it had gone much longer, it might have gotten too dark to keep playing.
“We’ve been saying that for years, how great it would be to have lights here, just for opening up field space for all the teams,” said Doug Rogers, Pirates manager.
“This ballpark is one of, if not the nicest amateur ballpark in Canada. Why doesn’t it have lights? That question’s been asked for a lot of years,” he said. “It’s the only thing this ballpark really, really, desperately needs, are lights.”
The fundraising campaign has not begun yet because the association was waiting for Nanaimo school trustees to endorse the venture – the school district owns the stadium and the association contracts with them to operate the facility.
That support came at last week’s board meeting.
“The school district decision is key because they’re a key partner,” said Huggins.
Jordan Blundell, manager of the Vancouver Island Baseball Institute Mariners and the Nanaimo Palladian Pirates, a B.C. Junior Premier Baseball League team, said lights would be a huge economic driver for the city, as it would open up new opportunities to host provincial and national tournaments.
“This is something the baseball community needs here,” he said. “It will definitely enhance the level here. It will bring more people into this community. I think the lights will pay for themselves in the next five years.”
Lights would open up the field longer, both for practices and games, especially in the fall, when the institute is running camps for under-18 players as well as the college program.
“We’d have options,” Blundell said. “If I could play night games, I’d be able to play 10 more games a year with my college program.”
Lights would also enable the city to host collegiate summer league teams, which would bring players from all over Canada and the U.S. to Nanaimo. Right now, many Mariners travel elsewhere to play summer league at lighted stadiums.
Blundell said Nanaimo produces some talented players – in early June, Vancouver Island Baseball Institute Mariner Adam Paulencu was chosen in the Major League Baseball draft.
The Mariners also finished as runners-up at the Canadian College Baseball Conference championships this year.
“There’s a lot of bright kids, future leaders of the community, that play here,” said Blundell.
Huggins said the association is only in the initial stages of planning a fundraising campaign – the group was awaiting school district approval and has not even formed a fundraising committee – but she is looking for assistance.
People interested in helping can call Huggins at 250-754-2601.