After their batting cage was destroyed by snow in 2016, Central Saanich Little League decided to come up with something big.
This month, they’ve revealed that they plan to build a $168,000 training facility in the same location as the old batting cage in Central Saanich’s Centennial Park.
Plans are calling for a 40 foot by 70 foot indoor batting and pitching facility (approx. 2,800 square feet) that will provide a place where the players in Central Saanich Little League (CSLL) and other local sports groups can practice out of the elements. CSLL President Morley Wittman presented the plan to Central Saanich council earlier this month, seeking municipal support for the project — which will eventually belong to the District.
“Our purpose is making stronger kids through community,” Wittman said. “We use baseball as a venue to get kids together and instill values of community into them.”
To that point, he said CSLL is paying for the project themselves — with help in the form of donations and in-kind contributions from people, groups like the local Lions Club and businesses from around the region. Wittman added they have support from Central Saanich Extreme Fastball and from the Peninsula Baseball and Softball Association. Once the structure is built, he said those groups would be welcome to use it too.
“$168,000 is the estimated cost,” Wittman said. “It’s a hefty price, yes. We have $27,000 in cash right now and $60,000 in donations and in-kind donations and $16,000 from insurance proceeds (from the snow-destroyed batting cage). We’re confident the donors will provide the rest. The money will not be a problem. The money side, we’re not concerned about at all.”
CSLL is hoping for District approval by September, by which time they should have a pre-fabricated building delivered. Site preparation would occur before that time — again, pending municipal approval. Wittman said they hope to have it open to the kids later int he fall.
That timeline, however, was called into question by Central Saanich council. Generally supportive of the plan, mayor and council voted to support it, in-principle, and will work with CSLL and staff to outline the fine details. Those include not only the approval process for building it, but how it’ll be maintained, who controls it and who has access to it.
Mayor Ryan Windsor asked if the sports league is close to a formal agreement with the District. Wittman said it’s open at this point. He said the land does belong to the District and the building will eventually belong to the District.
He said CSLL is looking at this as a “lease in good faith,” but there’s nothing formalized.
Windsor added partnerships are also an issue when it comes to agreements.
“I can foresee, through future use, maybe an unintended consequence with all the parties,” said the mayor, adding he sees a need for agreements in place, in case circumstances for any of the groups involved, change.
Wittman said they are willing to do that.
“It’s just a matter of sitting down at the table and discussing it, more than anything else.”
Council made an adjustment in their decision to do with the allocation of staff time for this project, but it was clear the CSLL’s timeline would be stretched a little.
Coun. Chris Graham said, historically, Central Saanich’s park system was significantly contributed to by the community and volunteers. He said he doesn’t want to give CSLL a message that a significant donation to park is not appreciated by this discussion.
“We need to embrace opportunities like this,” added Coun. Carl Jensen, who used the example of the new stage built by the Brentwood Community Association.
“Community groups are stepping up and creating amenities like this. If we wait until District can do it in planing … it would probably take lot longer …”
CSLL has seen a lot of growth in players since it started in 1969. Wittman said registrations went from only 177 a few years ago, to 315 this year. He said fields are almost at capacity now and an indoor facility like this will give kids another place to play — and extend their season.