Thunder Bay

Chapples Park baseball diamonds to be converted to soccer fields

A new master plan for Chapples Park in Thunder Bay will leave baseball teams who use the park's nine diamonds, striking out.

9 baseball diamonds to become soccer pitches

The soccer fields at Chapples Park in Thunder Bay will be improved, and expanded as part of the park's master plan. (Josh Lynn/CBC)

A new master plan for Chapples Park in Thunder Bay will leave baseball teams who use the park's nine diamonds, striking out.

The 15-year plan calls for the elimination of baseball diamonds, to be replaced by soccer fields.

"It sees the removal of baseball, but it puts soccer front and centre with seven or eight fields," said Jonathan Hack, a consultant with Sierra Planning Consultants.

The Toronto-area company designed the Chapples Master Plan, which also includes new picnic areas, an artificial turf field at the Fort William Stadium, more public washrooms, and a new indoor multi-use facility.

The total cost of the plan is $22.7M, plus an additional $14M if the ice surface is twinned at Delaney Arena.

The city has already budgeted $1.25M for field improvements in 2017 to Chapples Park.
The Chapples Master Plan outlines many changes that will occur over the next 15 years in the park. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

"The indoor sports facility responds to the interests of both the soccer community and tennis," said Hack, noting that baseball teams would have to find other places to play.

Hack presented information showing the number of people playing softball or baseball in the city is steady, or slowly declining, while the number playing soccer is rapidly increasing. He estimated about 7,000 people play soccer in Thunder Bay.

"I'm just looking at the baseball and soccer. I'm looking at the municipal supply," said Coun. Andrew Foulds. "Broad strokes, will we continue to have to add new soccer fields to meet the demand?"

The city currently has 46 baseball diamonds, and will have 37 after the Chapples plan is fully implemented. However, the number of soccer fields will increase the number of fields by 5.

"It's about satisfaction, utilization, and quality of the fields," said Hack, noting that perhaps fewer, but better maintained baseball diamonds may be a better move for the city in the long term.

Fewer baseball diamonds

Hack still said the city needs to "exercise caution" when eliminating baseball diamonds.

"There is a case for decommissioning some diamonds. But, the precise number shouldn't necessarily be an arithmetic number between this standard and how many are in the city. We have to look at the supply and say which one of these are single diamonds too close to people's houses, and they can be decommissioned. Or, the opportunity to centralize elsewhere."