An extensive project that will transform the home playing field of the Winkler Whips Senior Baseball Team will get underway this year. The team plays in the Border Baseball League.
The project, a dream in the making for a number of years, will enhance the overall experience for both players and spectators from an entertainment perspective, as well as safety.
Whips player and team executive member, Russ Penner, said the field has been their home base since the team's inception in 2016.
"Right now the infield is kind of like a concrete base. It's very hard. So we've always had a dream of making it better, making it safe, and making it more playable and it's finally coming to fruition."
The estimated $500,000 project will include digging out the infield and laying down sod for a proper grass infield, redoing the team's dugout, pushing out the home plate, and erecting a new scoreboard.
Josh Ginter, a coach and player with the Whips, as well as co-manager of the team's executive said they also want to upgrade their dugout, change the backstop, and also change the fence, making it a safer fence.
"We want to push out home plate to provide more entertainment essentially, more home runs, more plays at the fence," added Ginter. "We want to put a scoreboard up, we want to change some things behind centre field to ensure that hitters can see the ball a little better out of the pitcher's hands. So it's a fairly extensive project, and it's grown. It seems like every week we find something new that we want to do."
The half-million-dollar project has been broken down into four phases.
The first and second phases will be complete this fall, while Phase Three will happen in the spring of 2023 or the fall of 2023. Penner said the timeline will depend on their fundraising efforts.
The fourth phase will take place in 2024, or sooner. Penner noted that the timeline will again depend on fundraising. "Phase Four is our lighting project, where we want to have lights to light the diamonds."
Penner said a little over half of their budgeted goal has been raised so far, either in cash, or services in-kind and product donations. He said they are offering a variety of opportunities to donate, including different corporate packages. To find out more you can visit the project's website HERE - Winkler Ballpark Project
The ball diamond in Winkler's Parkland Park is at the corner of Grandeur Avenue and 15th Street. It was formerly known as Diamond Five.
Ginter said one of the big accomplishments in the last few months is having Arctic Spas Manitoba become the naming sponsor for the Winkler Ballpark Project.
"So going forward Diamond Five is going to be known as 'Arctic Field,'" said Ginter. "We're very excited to partner with Arctic Spas, we're honoured to partner with them, we're excited to see the dream come true and to work with them to achieve that dream. So going forward it will be Arctic Field. . .We're excited about the unique name and all of the opportunities that come with that."
Asked whether the Winkler Ballpark Project can be compared to the Access Field of Dreams initiative in Altona. Ginter said the group behind Altona's Access Field of Dreams project was a big inspiration for the ballpark group in Winkler. "The Altona group that worked on that project has already provided a lot of guidance to our group. So inspiration is probably the best way of putting it, that we would love to at least stand on our own that way and have a diamond that can relate. And provide the same sort of entertainment features and safety features for players, and coaches and fans."
Related article: Access Field Officially Switches On The Lights (VIDEO)