Thunder Bay

Port Arthur stadium upgrades on track

New bullpens, a rebuilt playing field, improvements to lighting and the clubhouses — Thunder Bay's Port Arthur stadium is getting a facelift over the next few months.

Field work, new bullpens among changes being made for baseball world cup tournament

Work on the Port Arthur stadium's field began last year in preparation for September's World Baseball Softball Confederation Under-18 Baseball World Cup tournament. (Daniel Grant/Thunder Bay Border Cats)

New bullpens, a rebuilt playing field, improvements to lighting and the clubhouses — Thunder Bay's Port Arthur stadium is getting a facelift over the next few months.

The work is being done to prepare the 65-year-old facility for the World Baseball Softball Confederation's Under-18 Baseball World Cup, which is scheduled to take place in Thunder Bay in September.

"The international tournament is pretty much making it happen," said Daniel Grant, general manager of the Thunder Bay Border Cats, who call the stadium home. "It's beneficial for us, for sure, but it was something, I think, that needed to be seriously looked at anyway."

Dan Grant, general manager of the Thunder Bay Border Cats. (Cathy Alex/CBC)

Grant said the work being done includes replacing the padding behind the wooden Home Run Club enclosure, located behind home plate. Grant said the Home Run Club will be in place for the Cats season, but will be removed for the world cup as it's too close to home plate and doesn't meet international standards.

A new pitching mound is being built, and the home plate area being redone so it lines up properly.

In addition, some work will be done inside the clubhouses, as there are leaks to patch, Grant said, due to the age of the building.

The batter's backdrop — located along the fence at centre field — will be enlarged to meet international standards, as well.

Bullpens moving

One noticeable change will be the change to the bullpens. Up until this season, they were located on sidelines along left and right field.

However, they'll now be moved to behind the right-field fence, Grant said.

"We have to figure out how that's going to work as far as putting a door in the fence, what we're going to do with signage out there as far as how we're going to let the pitchers out there see what's going on in the game," Grant said. "We have to figure out now how we're going to communicate out there, with the bullpen. So there's a few things that we're still kind of on the fence about."

The stadium's lighting will also be tweaked, Grant said, despite the lighting at Port Arthur stadium being among the best in the Northwoods League.

"I think the intensity of the lights aren't as strong as they should be from an international standpoint," he said. "I don't know if that's going to happen pre-season for us or not."

Grant said the lighting changes are coming to better accommodate plans to televise baseball world cup games.

Field training coming for Cats staff

One challenge the Cats will face, Grant said, is making sure the newly-revamped stadium and field is properly maintained in future seasons.

"We're going to go through some field training, some infield training, as to how to properly take care of the field after games, and prepping the field before games, and how to keep the mound at the standard that it is when they build it," he said. "It's going to be watched closely all summer."

The Border Cats home opener is June 3, and the baseball world cup runs from Sept. 1-10.

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