After years of dreaming, planning, and delays brought on by the pandemic, the first baseball game was played Friday on Arctic Field in Winkler.
Arctic Field, the home playing diamond of the Whips senior ball team of the Border Baseball League, underwent a major transformation during the past off-season.
Since the project got underway last August, the infield was dug up, the old dirt removed, and a softer sod infield was put in. New dugouts and padded fencing have also been installed all the way around the field.
Whips player and team executive member Josh Ginter says the project was initially spearheaded by five members of the Whips team back in 2019, but since then, he says the community has been rallying around them all the way.
"We've relied on a ton of help from John, Chris, and Dennis at Pinnacle. They were our general contractors," noted Ginter. "They designed a lot of stuff. They got in contact with all of the contractors that did the concrete work or the landscaping work, and they have been so helpful. I don't think any of us really have a hot clue how to handle a project like they do, so that was excellent."
Ginter said they also had kids from the Winkler Minor ball program come to help lay sod, and members of the Pembina Valley Orioles help with work around the ballpark.
"So it has been a community effort from top to bottom," said Ginter.
Even though Arctic Field is primed and ready for the 2023 ball season, there is still a wishlist for further enhancements.
Whips player and Executive member Russ Penner says they first want to complete work on the playing surface to ensure it's top quality.
A scoreboard is also big on the list. And, further down the road, possibly new seating for fans, and then the installation of lights to illuminate the field at dark.
Penner added the Whips are excited about the legacy this project will leave behind.
"I'm 31. And, in my lifetime, I don't remember other than the tin roofs being put on the old benches at the old Diamond 5, I don't think anything had been done with the ballpark" said Ginter.
He said it was cool to see how they could first build the team, start the team, get some momentum with the team, and use the momentum to get into the Community and create this dream field.
"I think Winkler needed it, and Winkler's got one of the best ball programs in the province right now. There are so many young kids that are playing in town that can aspire to play on the field. The Pembina Valley Orioles have come to town now, so that adds another whole layer to this."
And it seemed fitting the Whips also got their first win on Arctic Field on opening night, downing the Pilot Mound Pilots 4 to 2.
- With files from Abby Wall and Ronny Guenther -