The Nelson ballpark named after Queen Elizabeth hardly looks royal — in fact, it’s barely fit for Little Leaguers.
The field is uneven, the dugouts flood, foul balls fly into houses and traffic, and the scoreboard hasn’t worked in years.
That changes in October when the Nelson Baseball Association begins a three-year project estimated to cost approximately $250,000 that will restore and modernize Queen Elizabeth Park.
“It all just evolved from looking at this field and saying, ‘you know it is a beautiful setting, but it’s been neglected in pretty much every component of the baseball field,’” said Jim Sevigny, the association’s treasurer.
The three-phase project to update the park begins with the installation of a warning track, foul poles and an outfield fence, which will include a gate near centre field.
Sevigny says the fence’s construction has already received funding thanks to a $25,000 Columbia Basin Trust grant as well as $15,000 from local corporate sponsors.
Sevigny said the fence is needed for the obvious reason — home runs — as well as for player safety.
“It’s very dangerous playing baseball here. The ball is hit, it rolls up the slope. Kids are running up there, it’s very difficult…,” he said.
“When you’re running, you’re tracking the ball. There’s no warning track, all you do is run into the slope. It’s very dangerous and there’s been lots of sprained ankles.”
One area that won’t receive new fencing is along the right foul line next to the bleachers, which is at the bottom of a hill popular with tobogganers. Currently a temporary fence is in place that Sevigny said will be removed each fall by the city.
Sevigny said he is sensitive to local love for the sledding spot. In 2014, vandals protested a planned fence at the bottom of the hill by removing poles that had put in place prior to construction.
“We’re not trying to turn this into a baseball field with fences that no one can use. We’re trying to actually improve it, renovate it, rejuvenate it, open it up more.”
Next year, Sevigny said the association will continue fundraising, rebuild the infield, replace the dugouts and expand the safety nets along part of the backstop as well as to the end of the right field dugout.
He said the association wants to do right by the park’s neighbours who have been victimized by foul balls.
“There’s been smashed windows, people have been hit, it lands in their yard. [Residents] have been infinitely patient.”
Year Three of the project will add a press box, updated batting cages and a new digital scoreboard that will be relocated to left-centre field. The scoreboard will also include a sign with the park’s name, something that is conspicuously absent.
Previously known as Fairview Playground, the city renamed the park in 1953 to commemorate the queen’s coronation. Currently the ballpark is used by players aged 11 and up as well as on occasion by Nelson Mixed Slo-pitch.