The City of Nanaimo’s finance and audit committee has recommended spending an additional $350,000 for lighting upgrades at Serauxmen Stadium, bringing the project total to close to $1.1 million. NEWS BULLETIN file photo

Nanaimo baseball stadium lighting project costs increasing by $350,000

Finance committee recommends LED lights at Serauxmen Stadium

Night-time baseball at Serauxmen Stadium could be played under LED lights.

Nanaimo city councillors, during a finance and audit committee meeting on July 17, recommended spending an additional $345,500 on a lighting system for Serauxmen Stadium.

Staff had originally budgeted $752,721 for the Serauxmen Stadium field lighting project, but have since recommended councillors increase the project’s budget to $1,096,221 in order to pay for an LED lighting system and electrical servicing upgrades. The additional $345,500 would come from the city’s community works fund.

Plans for lights at a Nanaimo baseball field have been in the works for years, with the Nanaimo Minor Baseball Association leading a fundraiser to purchase lights at Serauxmen Stadium in 2011. In 2016, the association received a $150,000 grant, – later withdrawn due to logistical issues – from the Toronto Blue Jays Care Foundation to help cover the costs of installing lights at nearby Mariner Field.

The city has been planning to install a metal-halide field lighting system at Serauxmen since it purchased the field from the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district in 2017.

According to a staff report, the reason for the funding increase is because the city’s main supplier of sports field lights has stopped supplying metal-halide-based lighting systems and will only supply LED field systems beginning in 2020. Additionally, the cost of metal halide lighting has increased by 24 per cent since 2018, causing city staff to recommend switching to LEDs.

While LED lighting has a higher upfront cost than metal halide, the report notes that an LED system has lower operational costs, increased life expectancy and lower overall life-cycle costs.

During this week’s meeting, Richard Harding, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture, told councillors that most companies that supply sports field lighting and equipment are switching to LED-based systems.

“We have an opportunity to do LED, which is much more energy efficient,” he said, adding that it would be the only baseball diamond in the city to have outdoor lights suitable for night-time games.

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Some councillors expressed concerns about additional money coming from the city’s community works reserve fund.

Coun. Tyler Brown, who was the only councillor to oppose the recommendation, said he was hesitant to approve the request without having further conversations about the fund while Coun. Don Bonner wondered if there were other funding sources that could be used, adding that there are other projects that need to be funded.

“$300,000 … is still a good chunk of change,” Bonner said.

Wendy Fulla, manager of business, asset and financial planning, said aside from residential property taxation and debt financing, the community works reserve is one the few accounts the city can use to fund new infrastructure.

“We do use [the community works reserve] quite a bit for new infrastructure that we are building, so that of course is why we look to that fund to fund this project. We follow past practice of what we’ve been doing,” she said, adding that certain reserves, such as the general asset management reserve, can only be used for renewal projects.

Coun. Sheryl Armstrong said she didn’t have an issue about the money coming from the community works fund explaining that’s what the fund was intended for.

Coun. Ian Thorpe said he was comfortable with the money coming from the community works reserve and pointed out that the project is already on the city’s books. He said he’d support the funding request, adding that it is a better investment in the long run for the city.

“This is simply an upgrade in the quality of lighting and to me it makes sense. In the long-term it is actually going to save us money,” he said.

Speaking to News Bulletin afterwards, Fulla said no grant funding is being used to fund the lighting project but that the Serauxmen Stadium Amateur Baseball Association has contributed $50,000 toward the initiative.

Serauxmen Stadium is the home of the Mid Island Pirates, VIU Mariners, the Nanaimo Coal Miners senior men’s league and other levels of ball. A West Coast League expansion team has also been proposed for Nanaimo. 
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