Thunder Bay

Border Cats, City of Thunder Bay reach deal over delayed home opener

The Thunder Bay Border Cats have reached an agreement with the city to compensate the Northwoods League baseball team over its delayed 2017 home opener.

Team's home opener pushed back two weeks due to renovations at Port Arthur Stadium

The Thunder Bay Border Cats and the City of Thunder Bay have reached an agreement over the team's delayed 2017 home opener. (Cathy Alex/CBC )

The Thunder Bay Border Cats have reached an agreement with the city to compensate the Northwoods League baseball team over its delayed 2017 home opener.

The Cats first home game was pushed back about two weeks earlier this summer. Originally scheduled for June 3, the opener was instead played on June 17 due to renovations at Port Arthur Stadium, the Cats' home field.

The 10 games originally scheduled to take place at home during that period were instead played on the road, which made for a tough start to the season both on the field and in the office, said team president Kyle Smith.

"There's obviously an impact there, and then there's additional costs to playing on the road," Smith said in an interview with CBC News. "You know, when you think about 30 per cent of your potential revenue going away, and then adding additional expense, it is problematic for us to start the season that way."

Details of the agreement, Smith said, are confidential.

Weather delayed stadium work

The renovations at Port Arthur Stadium were needed to prepare the aging facility to host the XXVIII World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Baseball World Cup 2017, set to take place during the first week of September.

When announcing the delay in June, the city said Thunder Bay weather, including an ice storm in April, slowed work on the field, necessitating the change to the Border Cats schedule.

"A lot of it was understanding the situation, and moreso, how we got in the situation," Smith said of the talks between the city and the team. "Even if it's due to weather and things like that, it's important that everybody kinda comes on the same page."

"A lot of it comes down to calculating the impact and that takes time," he said. "There is some negotiation with it and you've gotta deal with a few different entities, and in the meantime, on our side, we're trying to really focus on giving the folks in Thunder Bay a quality product."

On-field struggles

The Cats wrapped up their 2017 season on Sunday, dropping their final game 4-3 to the Willmar Stingers.

The Thunder Bay squad finished with a 27-43 record in 2017, landing them in last place in the Northwoods League's north division.

Despite the on-field struggles, however, the Cats saw strong attendance this year, with an average of 960 people attending the team's 25 home games, up from last year.

"I can't thank the community of Thunder Bay enough," Smith said. "The folks within the city, the citizens, the front office, the players — it wasn't the typical way to start a season, but we saw some very strong growth."

"There's a vibe," he said. "There are some good things going on at Port Arthur Stadium, and now with the junior tournament coming up, Thunder Bay is becoming a baseball town."


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