June 01, 2016
Kenora is a small city in NW Ontario, with lots of activities for our community members, particularly for youth in sport and recreation, including both school teams and minor. Some of our awesome options for active living include baseball and slo-pitch, hockey, figure skating, ball hockey, soccer, swimming, gymnastics, basketball, volleyball, football, martial arts, cross country and downhill skiing/snowboarding, waterskiing, cheerleading, badminton, bowling, curling, golf, rowing, rock climbing, sailing, skateboarding, pickle ball, canoeing and kayaking, biking, running, fitness classes, and of course, fishing. Our youth baseball league has grown substantially in the last 5 years, and we had 300+ players register with Kenora Baseball League (KBL) this season! We have a total of 23 teams of players, male and female, between the ages of 4-15, who are passionate about the game and who play hard and have a ton of fun! We also have 2 teams that are travelling this season - giving an opportunity to those who want a little higher level of competition and a longer season!! Our League is inclusive, and draws on the youth of Kenora and the surrounding First Nations and other communities. There are a lot of small towns within a 2 hour drive from here (Red Lake, Vermillion Bay, Dryden, Sioux Lookout, Sioux Narrows, Nester Falls, Fort Frances), and we have tried to include players from those communities as well. If their parents can get them here, we welcome them to play on our teams. Occasionally, other nearby communities are able to put their own teams together, and we have made efforts to play with teams from surrounding towns whenever possible.
I am nominating Kenora Baseball League and our Fields Project for this prize money. Respectfully, our Municipal ball fields are in terrible shape overall. Our kids use 5 of our 9 fields in Kenora, mainly using the fields known as "JM" for the 2 fields in the Jaffray Melick area of Kenora. Our League (KBL) signed an agreement with the City of Kenora in 2015 to allow us to do some very necessary upgrades to those 2 diamonds. Right now we have a horrible "beach sand" infield that has no drainage - which means we often have to cancel our field time due to water issues. This week it's been raining on and off for 3 days and we've had to cancel our practice and game times because the fields are like ponds. Our outfields are uneven, bumpy and with scattered clumps of "grass". The fencing and backstops are in very poor condition. KBL has started paying to rent the neighbouring indoor JM SportsPlex so that we can play indoors for the first few weeks in the spring to allow the fields time to dry out. Of course, we can't play games or even hit balls in there, but we're able to start with pre-season drills, and it's been a fantastic option for our players and coaches. Every year we host ball camps and umpire/coach certifications, and we've done camps in the SportsPlex for the last 2 seasons. We have been fundraising and applying for grants, but Kraft prize money would be an absolute godsend! Our vision for the JM Fields Project is this: - overall fields to be reconstructed to have proper drainage - installation of proper infield mix to improve safety - leveling the outfield and laying down soil and sod - replacing the fencing and moving it out to maximize space and increase field dimensions - replacing and expanding the back stops - installing netting at the back of the fields so hit balls don't damage homes in the neighbouring property - replacing current bleachers and adding more bleachers (we have lots of spectators!) - upgrading/replacing our dugouts and concession building - installing lights would be fantastic!! - installing a permanent batting cage between the fields We don't allow our older players (bantam and midget) to play on these JM fields, because they can too often hit out of the park, and the neighbours (understandably) complain about their homes being hit with balls. Good quality netting would solve this issue, and allow us to have the 13-18 year old players utilizing those fields too. These fields are also used by the Women's Slo-Pitch League, which has 26 teams this season! Having lights would allow us to extend our playing times so we can better share the fields. Right now, our kids games are time-limited because the Women play after us, and they need to have enough time to complete their games before dark. Lights would solve that problem! The Men's Slo-Pitch League has 18 teams this season! They don't currently use these fields due to the smaller size. Our focus is on the enjoyment, safety and skill development of our players, with the hopes of always expanding and improving what we can offer our kids. Maintaining and supplying good quality equipment (bases, pitching machines, practice equipment) is a priority, and equipment is added and replaced as our finances allow. This Kraft/Heinz prize money would make an unbelievable difference to Kenora Baseball League.
I could talk all day about the impact this project will have on our community. If our fields were in better shape, we would be able to host tournaments, bringing other community teams to Kenora. With our current field conditions, this is not an option. This would have an amazing impact on KBL and Kenora; giving our players more opportunity to play a variety of teams rather than just playing each other, increase our player skills, activity and experience, add to the League's fundraising efforts by collecting fees and making profits in our concession, as well as stimulating our local Kenora economy by having more people here staying in cabins/hotels, buying food and gas, eating in restaurants, shopping, and making plans to come back again to enjoy all Kenora has to offer! We would also love to be able to cultivate school teams, in partnership between KBL and the 2 local School Boards. If we can attach membership on a team to school (making class attendance and minimum grades a requirement for their spot on the team), then we can target the 'at risk' students. One school has reported that this worked beautifully for the students on the school hockey team; as soon as hockey season ended, teachers noticed a drop in attendance at school. Being that ball season starts shortly after hockey season ends, this could be a huge help to those kids. They can be physically active year round, improving or building their social skills and peer relationships, learning to follow direction and take feedback from people of authority, learn sportsmanship and peer support, learning and practicing time managment. The JM fields are within walking distance from both of our high schools and 4 of our elementary schools. With better field conditions and fewer safety concerns, school teams could be using these fields during the day time hours as well. The benefits of improving these 2 fields are ENDLESS!!! How great would it be if our kids had opportunity to play on University or College teams?! Our wish has always been to create a SAFE space for our players, where they will learn proper baseball skills on a playable field, and have opportunities to compete with teams outside of our community. Right now, players have a hard time learning skills like tracking a rolling ball, for example, because balls stop dead in the sand when they land. It’s very difficult to teach players how to steal a base when they are trying to run on beach sand, and we currently don’t encourage or teach sliding, for fear of injury. Our League is proud of our community, proud of what Kenora has to offer our youth in sport, and VERY proud of how much this Board has grown our League over the last 5 years. It is with that sense of pride that we hope to realize our goal of creating a community space where visitors from other communities can come and enjoy the safe, well-maintained recreational areas that our community has to offer. Our intention is to meet these goals in a fiscally responsible way, which will not over-extend our League, nor the investors into this project.