Telus Field gets a new name and lease on life

Edmonton baseball fans fearing the game would be going, going, gone from the river valley ballpark have caught a break. A deal with the City of Edmonton means the Edmonton Prospects will be rounding the bases for at least four more years.

4-year deal between the city and the Edmonton Prospects means baseball is back

Gordon Gerlach is the Operations Manager for the Edmonton Prospects. (John Robertson)

It's a beautiful day for baseball as Gordon Gerlach works the outfield.

But he's not shagging flies.

The Edmonton Prospects' facilities manager is positioning the sprinklers, ensuring the outfield gets a good soaking.

"Everyone is looking forward to the start of the season," he said.

Gerlach believes things are looking up for Edmonton ball fans and he's hoping they'll return to the 10,000-seat facility nestled in the river valley.

Watch this video featuring Gordon Gerlach, operations manager for the Edmonton Prospects, for a history lesson on the teams that have played in Telus Field since it opened in 1995. 1:48

Part of his optimism springs out of a new four-year leasing deal with an option for a fifth that was recently signed between the Prospects and the City of Edmonton which owns the facility.

This arrangement spells stability and silences any suggestion of repurposing or demolishing the ballpark, at least until 2020.

Craig Tkachuk says without the long-term deal, they could not plan ahead.

"You had to take your signs up and down, you couldn't create any partnerships beyond the year."

But now, the chief operating officer of the Edmonton Prospects says that's all changed.
There is artificial turf in the infield and real grass in the outfield at this ballpark. (John Robertson/CBC)

"You can expect more than just baseball here. We're going to do a summer concert series, some picnics in the park, that sort of thing that really helps develop the facility, develops the river valley and be part of summer in Edmonton."

That's what the city wants too, says Brad Badger.

The Community and Recreation Facilities director says they're excited to open the doors for more community use similar to the sharing agreements the city has for soccer facilities and ski hills to grow their sports.

Baseball history primer

Baseball has been played in the grass and dirt of Rossdale flats for more than 100 years in parks with names like Diamond Field, Renfrew Park and John Ducey Park.

When the current ballpark opened in 1995 Telus Communications bought the naming rights.

It was then home to the Edmonton Trappers, a triple-A professional team in the Pacific Coastal League.

The Trappers were sold in 2004 and were followed by the lower-level Edmonton Cracker Cats, later renamed the Capitals. Now the collegiate-level Edmonton Prospects call the park home.

Gerlach says the baseball is good and the ball team has plans to renovate.

"Potentially the inclusion of a indoor training centre which will house some of the academy programs that are here in town and potentially the University of Alberta will be playing here."

A title sponsor for the ballpark is expected to be revealed before the Prospects home opener on May 28th.

You can see more from this spot on CBC TV's Our Edmonton at 10 a.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday and Monday.

The view from the visitors dugout where the players with the Okotoks Dawgs will be for the home opener against the prospects on May 28th. (Adrienne Lamb)