The City of Nelson has increased the hours a sports organization may book the playing fields at Lions Park by more than 80 per cent.
This is an increase from 150 to 275 hours per year.
That’s good news for Jay Stewart, president of the Nelson Baseball Association, which runs baseball programs for players ages five-to-10 at Lions Park.
“We are encouraged,” Stewart said. “We’ve been working hand-in-hand with the city on this and I’m glad that they have listened. This shows a big movement toward getting more five-to-10 year olds playing baseball, and you would be hard pressed to find a downside in that.”
This is one of four changes to the city’s sport field policies approved at council’s Dec. 5 meeting.
The point of the changes, according to a document provided by city staff to council, is to “provide for fairer access to the city’s playing fields, increase playing time if applicable, allow for growth of a sport, and consider the needs of all users.”
The city’s sports field policy covers Lakeside Park, Queen Elizabeth Park, Lions Park, Davies Street Park, and Art Gibbon Park.
In addition to the increased cap on hours at Lions Park, three other changes were approved that apply to every park:
• Currently the sports fields may only be booked during the period April 15 to Oct. 15. The new dates starting in 2024 will be April 1 to Oct. 30..
• One of the current criteria when a group is applying for a sports field contract is number of rosters. This will change to number of teams. Rosters are not typically decided when booking fields for a season. The number of teams will be based on the previous years’ numbers.
• Booking cancellations due to bad weather or poor field conditions can be made on the same day without financial penalty.
The argument in favour of the changes is contained in a letter, signed by Stewart and by Lauren Penfound of Nelson Mixed SloPitch, sent to council in September
The letter asked for an increase in the cap on the number of hours at Lions Park and explained that it is the only location in Nelson set up for baseball for boys and girls ages five-to-10. The demand in that age group, they wrote, is outgrowing the 150-hour cap.
Moving some of those games to Lakeside Park is not realistic, the letter explained, because those fields are designed as adult softball fields without pitching mounds, and are already at capacity with slow pitch and soccer.
The diamond at Queen Elizabeth Park not designed for slow pitch or for ages five-to-10 baseball, “and is not an appropriate over-flow field,” for either of those sports, the letter states.
The letter also argues that the NBA has invested money at Lions Park in such things as dugouts, bleachers, and equipment sheds — facilities that are not available at Lakeside.
“Our leagues (NBA and Adult Slo-Pitch) generate municipal revenue,” the letter states. “They should not be made to accommodate each other’s programming due to a lack of proper sports infrastructure and outdated policy limitations.”