Funding for Hammond ball field

$520,000 for drainage, backstop, fencing; no bleachers.

It’s not a new stadium that will bring back the glory days of Maple Ridge baseball, but by next year the western field in Hammond will look a whole lot better than it does now.

With a federal grant of $187,500, and another $325,000 from the District of Maple Ridge, the field will get new drainage and grass, new back stop and a permanent outfield fence, meaning it can be used year-round for baseball. The diamond will also will be re-oriented to the northwest for better vision.

“We’re really excited about the field. It’s going to be awesome for us, having a facility that’s solely dedicated to baseball will make a huge difference in the development of our players and coaches,” said Gord Easton, midget commissioner with Ridge Meadows Minor Baseball.

Maple Ridge MP Randy Kamp was to announce the federal funds, which came from Western Economic Diversification, on Wednesday.

Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin admitted it won’t mean a return to the day when there were bleachers at the stadium, but it’s a “huge step” towards revitalization of the field.

“It will support the kids. It will give them a top qualify field to play on,” he said Tuesday.

Daykin didn’t know if the field would have a sand or the more-preferred clay base.

But, “Getting 21st century drainage in there will help a lot. They’ll get more use out of it.”

It may not be everything people wanted, but it will be a top-notch facility that could attract some tournaments, he added.

Parks and facilities director Dave Boag said the project was scaled back in order to apply for the infrastructure grant program.

The field will be completely rebuilt.

“So this will be a year-round training facility for minor baseball now.”

The work will be done to allow future construction of bleachers, although such a project is not currently being envisioned.

“It will be a complete replacement of what’s there,” noting the field was first put built in 1951.

“It will be a designated year-round baseball training facility now,” without having to double as a soccer pitch during the fall and winter months.

Boag said a request for bids will be issued soon, with construction to start after minor baseball season ends in June. One of the grant conditions is that the project be completed by March 2014.

The Ridge Meadows Minor Baseball Association originally envisioned a 5,000-seat $9-million baseball stadium, but scaled down the proposal after losing out on grant funding in 2008, then opted for a 300-seat, $2 million park, which was later scaled back again.