City council approves Miracle Field plan in Riverside

New wheelchair accessible baseball field will replace old Riverside Arena, becoming part of proposed mixed-use development for city's east-end site.

Riverside Minor Baseball Association has raised more than $1 million for wheelchair accessible ball field

Chairperson of Riverside Minor Baseball Association Bill Kell, left, and businessman Rick Farrow outline plans for a new Miracle Field. (Derek Spalding/CBC)

A massive redevelopment of the old Riverside Arena site in Windsor's east end will include a wheelchair accessible baseball diamond, thanks to persistent lobbying by one community group.

Members of the Riverside Minor Baseball Association have been pushing for the partnership with the city for years, finally culminating in dramatic fashion Monday with the group announcing they had raised more than $1 million for the project. 

Coun. Jo-Anne Gignac outlined the gist of the 10-year agreement, which also calls for the demolition of the old Concord Public School to make way for a low-density housing development.

"Our theme was — every child deserves a place to play and we never had the opportunity until we saw the open space at the Riverside arena," said  Bill Kell, chairperson of the minor baseball association.

His group had managed to raise about $700,000 to help pay for the cost of the accessible ball diamond, which has been dubbed Miracle Field. At Monday's meeting, Rick Farrow, president and CEO of Farrow customs broker, announced a donation of $500,000. 

"This park project will help families with challenges live a healthier, happier and more connected and rewarding life," he said, just moments before making his announcement. 

The latest plan for the old arena site was supported by all but one city councillor — Ward 4 representative Chris Holt. 

Holt said he could not support the redevelopment because he has been pushing for more residential and commercial density in the downtown, rather than in more suburban neighbourhoods. 

His political counterparts, including Mayor Drew Dilkens, found it much easier to vote in favour of the project.

"The community is really behind it, so it was easy for council to stand up and support this as well," Dilkens said. 

The deal means the city will give up revenue from property taxes, but the sale of low-density residential will more than recoup those losses, explained the mayor.