The official start of the first two phases of an extensive project that will transform Arctic Field in Winkler took place on Monday. Instead of a sod turning, dignitaries and team members removed the old home plate.
Arctic Field is the home playing diamond of the Winkler Whips Senior baseball team of the Border Baseball League.
"We're definitely happy to have everybody out here today to do the official sod turning that we were dreaming about many years ago," said Russ Penner, a Whips player and a member of the team's executive. "We started planning already back in 2019 and with COVID, the drought and everything, we've been delayed a few times, but now we're here, we're well on our way."
Phase one includes digging up the infield, removing the old dirt, then adding new dirt and putting in a softer sod infield. Home plate is also being moved up, making the field a bit smaller and more on par with the other fields the Whips play on. New dugouts, fencing and padded fencing will also be installed all the way around.
Penner says the timeline is to have phases one and two complete by the end of this year, to start on phase three in the spring of 2023, and have the fourth phase done by the end of next year.
"When Frank (Frank Loewen - President of Arctic Spas MB) talked about this project, he talked about the importance of community projects such as this, and we sat down and talked about it for a fair little while and we thought it was a great project to invest in," said Scott Beattie, vice-president of financing and administration with Arctic Spas Manitoba. "It's good for the community, it's good for every age bracket...we were happy to join in and become a contributor to the project."
A legacy project:
"We took this on as the Whips team but this diamond definitely serves a lot more than just the Whips. We have two high school teams that play on here, two 18U teams that play on here, and it's really going to be a great facility for the entire community to be available to use and watch games at...It's going to be a great facility for sure."
The total cost of the four phases is estimated at $500,000. So far, just under $300,000 has been raised for the Arctic Field project, which is enough to cover the cost of the first two phases, noted Penner.
"We got to go out there and do the work," added Penner. "The community is phenomenal. They've been a phenomenal support so far and we've appreciated that ever since our conception in 2016, we just got to go out there and show them our excitement about the project and show them what we're doing, and we're confident we can get the rest of the funds to finish all four phases."
The ball diamond in Winkler's Parkland Park is at the corner of Grandeur Avenue and 15th Street.