British Columbia·Photos

Surrey prepares to host Women's World Softball Championship

Workers are putting the finishing touches on four softball diamonds at Surrey's Softball City, as the city prepares to host the 2016 Women's World Softball Championship in July.

Surrey has pumped $1.5 million into upgrades to Softball City in preparation for the event

Surrey City Parks Department worker John Edwards sprays water on the freshly resurfaced softball diamond in preparation for the 2016 Women's World Softball Championships. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Workers are putting the finishing touches on four softball diamonds at Surrey's Softball City, as the city prepares to host the 2016 Women's World Softball Championship in July.

"There's still a few weeks of work to do here just putting in the final details," said Greg Timm, the organizing committee chairman for the tournament.

"If spectators haven't seen this sport — women's softball — played at the competitive level, they need to come and watch this, because they'll leave with a 'wow' factor," he said.

The softball facility in South Surrey was built more than two decades ago, and according to a spokesperson for the City of Surrey, $1.5 million dollars has been put into park upgrades over the last three years, since planning for the event began.

The clubhouse restaurant at Softball City is undergoing refurbishment as the big tournament approaches. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The fields have been completely resurfaced, irrigation has been improved, dugouts and spectator seating has been replaced, and the clubhouse restaurant is being refurbished.

Officials check out the facility

Various sports and municipal officials were touring the park on Wednesday, including Ron Radigonda, Executive Director of the World Baseball Softball Confederation Softball Division.

"I know that there'll be those last minute deals that'll need to be done, but I feel very confident that everything will be done correctly," he said. "I can't think of a better place for this championship to be held."

Ron Radigonda, the executive director of the World Baseball Softball Confederation Softball Division, says his biggest planning concern is the weather. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

There was also a television production team from Japan touring the park, discussing where to set up the six cameras that will be used to feed the championships back to a Japanese audience.

Ryuhei Sato, a director with TV Tokyo said through an interpreter that he was amazed with the park and that in Japan there are no dedicated softball facilities.

A team from TV Tokyo discusses its plans to televise the 2016 Women's World Softball Championships for a Japanese audience. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"After softball was no longer an Olympic sports event, it seems the public interest has lost a bit," he said.

"Team Japan has won the gold medals for the World Championship, so hopefully they'll win again and that will bring more awareness in Japan, and the attention on softball will rise and bring softball back to the Olympic Games," said Sato.

Sato's main concern with the planning seemed to be the possibility that bad weather could move in during the championships that run from July 15 - 24.

Japanese television director, Ryuhei Sato, was in Surrey planning coverage. "I just flew in yesterday and I’m leaving tomorrow," he said Wednesday through an interpreter. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The concern over weather was shared by Radigonda.

"The only thing we always hope for is good weather," he said. "Hopefully the weather will be perfect and every game will go off without a hitch."

Radigonda also expressed his concern over difficulties finding enough interpreters for the 31 teams that will be coming from all over the world.

"Some of the issues that you have, especially with our Spanish-speaking countries, in many cases they speak Spanish only and that becomes somewhat of an issue," he said.

Greg Timm stands in the infield of the main softball diamond at Softball City. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

But according to Timm, language is one of the reasons Surrey is a perfect fit for the championship.

"There's over a hundred languages spoken in Surrey every day, and in this tournament here, we'll have countries with 15 primary languages, so they feel welcome to come here and they'll be able to engage with the community," he said.

According to Timm, this is the biggest single sport team event in Canadian history. At the World Championship level, there will be 700 athletes and 200 coaches participating. There's also a youth tournament going on at the same time with another 1,500 athletes.

Timm estimates anywhere between 7,500 and 12,000 people will be passing through Softball City each day during the event.

"It's a huge, huge event for a single sport."

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