Andrew and Tami Riecker are getting used to fielding questions from their son and his teammates about why their ball park doesn’t measure up to other fields across the Island.
What doesn’t get any easier is trying to justify the disparity.
“It seems like ball’s being neglected a bit,” says Andrew Riecker, who has coached Campbell River Minor Ball for four years. “Pretty much every other facility has a lot of more amenities which is too bad because Campbell River has a very strong ball program.”
Campbell River Minor Baseball has been using the fields at the city’s Nunns Creek Park for decades.
But while facilities like the Sportsplex and Robron Park have undergone renovations and are regularly maintained, ball parents are seeing weeds poking through the cracks at Nunns Creek Park, fences falling into disrepair, tarps going up on top of the batting cage as a Band-Aid fix, and unsightly sea cans popping up in place of proper storage.
But perhaps the most worrisome of all is that the spectator stands are crumbling.
“The bottom step fell off,” Riecker says. “And a grandma who was here watching one of our games almost took a tumble.”
With little options available, the Rieckers have turned to the Internet for help.
With support and assistance from the Minor Baseball Association’s executive, the Rieckers have entered Nunns Creek Park in the Kraft Heinz Project Play contest in an attempt to win the $250,000 grand prize. Three runners up will receive $20,000.
Andrew says the city is considering its options for Nunns Creek Park, which include possibly relocating the ball fields elsewhere in the city. Even so, he says that plan would be several years away and in the meantime, minor ball, if successful, would use the contest money to build a new two-storey clubhouse with a concession, bathrooms and change rooms, equipment storage space and a lawn tractor garage on the lower level.
Currently, in the absence of a clubhouse, umpires are forced to use a closet area to prepare for games, and a portable steel container is being used to store baseball gear and equipment.
The concession is so small that most of the supplies for the concession are stored underneath the bleachers in a tiny storage closet.
Andrew says the state of the park is not only challenging but also humiliating.
“We hosted zones two years ago, for the Mosquito North Island Championships,” Tami says.
“Teams from places like Victoria and Nanaimo came up and the parents put in a lot of work to make the fields look really good, but it’s almost embarrassing in comparison because their facilities are in top notch quality,” Andrew says. “It’s tough when you want to host tournaments and you don’t have the basic facilities needed.”
Which is why the Rieckers and other ball parents are hoping their application stands out to the Project Play judges who will be whittling down 820 nominations from across Canada to just four. Those four finalists will be announced this Friday on TSN.
Following that, the public will vote July 25 and 26 and the nominee garnering the most votes will win the grand prize.
“I think this would be really huge for our community to have this upgrade,” Andrew says. “We could host more tournaments and increase traffic to our community.”
While nominations are now closed, the Nunns Creek Park nomination can still be viewed and shared at: kraftheinzprojectplay.com