Softball City to undergo big renovations

Softball City, a multi-field softball park in South Surrey, is undergoing massive renovations that will completely affect the quality of games played on the fields, as well as the viewing experience for fans in the park.

“The City of Surrey came in this past August and started the renovations then,” said Rick Benson, Chief Operating Officer of Softball City. “We expect to have everything done by early 2016.”

Softball City, which plays host to the annual Canadian Fast Pitch Open, first opened in 1990. While there have been small renovations and additions here and there, this marks the first big overhaul of the facility in nearly 25 years.

“Everything that’s being done is absolutely necessary if not overdue,” Benson said. “They are things that are going to make the park that much more attractive to bring in international events and have a positive effect on the economy in the local community.”

In November 2013, Softball City and the City of Surrey were awarded the 2016 ISF XV Women’s World Softball Championship. It soon became apparent that the field quality of all four diamonds was not sufficient to host such an event.

“When you look at what’s being done at the park, the primary is field renovations and then comfort is secondary,” said Benson. “This makes this a park that’s capable of hosting a world championship. Having hard ground a brown grass is a real concern. We didn’t have a material that was conducive to that type of championship.”

The list of confirmed renovations includes renovating washrooms, repairs and fresh paint to the upper deck of the restaurant, a complete overhaul of the infields on all four diamonds, irrigation improvements to all four fields, replacement of the fencing behind the foul lines, and other landscape improvements.

The total cost of the renovations is expected to cap out at $1.1 million, with the City of Surrey putting up $900,000 in taxpayers’ dollars. Softball City and the BC Softball Association are covering the remainder of the cost.

There is also a wish list in place to make more changes to the field house and the restaurant, replace the temporary home run fencing and, at the top of the list, revamp the seating to fit more people and to add comfort.

“We have an extensive wish list right now and the restaurant and bleachers are on there. But right now the funding isn’t in place to do that,” Benson said.

As for the amount of taxpayers’ dollars being poured into the project, citizens of Surrey aren’t overly concerned about the implications. In fact, they welcome them.

“Softball City hosts the Canadian Open every year, as well will be hosting the Softball Worlds in 2016,” said Renee Michelle, a South Surrey resident. “Our fields are crappy, old and out-dated. Dugouts filled with rain, potholes in the grass, the infield dirt is like cement, the washrooms stink and are falling apart. It’s embarrassing. We are on the world stage.”

Cassia Armstrong, a former pitcher for the White Rock Renegades, echoed Michelle’s thoughts.

“I played on those fields for eight years and everyone dreaded sliding on them. Everyone complained about them. If we’re going to hold the Softball Worlds, it’s absolutely crucial that we do it right and having a good facility is a huge part of that. Look at what the Canadian Open does for us every year and I think the Worlds have even greater potential. Ideally, the taxpayers’ money would be earned back in the Canadian Open and the Worlds.”

The Canadian Fast Pitch Open is an international tournament held every July at Softball City. Professional and minor league teams come from all over to participate in the tournament, with Team Canada and the White Rock Renegades acting as hosts. In the past, there have been minor league teams attending from all over North America, while the National teams from Australia, Japan, Mexico, USA, Venezuela and China join Team Canada to represent the women’s division. All four fields are expected to be complete before the Canadian Open in 2015, with the rest of the renovations completed before the Canadian Open and the Worlds in 2016.


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