BY MARK WEBER
The Western Major Baseball League is looking to grant a franchise to a Central Alberta community, and representatives outlined a plan to that end during City council’s regular meeting this past Monday.
According to their web site, the Western Major Baseball League (WMBL) is, “Canada’s pre-eminent summer collegiate baseball league. The predecessors to the WMBL date back to 1948.
“Over the past 56 years the league has gone by such names as the Canadian-American Baseball League, the Northern Saskatchewan Baseball League, the Alberta-Saskatchewan Baseball League, the Western Canadian Baseball League, the Saskatchewan Baseball League and since 2000 the WMBL.
“The WMBL boasts a long standing tradition of creating a showcase for top Canadian professional and college prospects while at the same time offering American college players the opportunity to hone their skills in front of enthusiastic baseball fans in towns and cities throughout the Prairies.
“There have been two constants over the decades that the WMBL and its predecessor leagues have been in operation: first, the quality of the baseball which professional scouts have consistently compared to the Single A professional level, and second, the quality of the summer experience for players.”
Council heard that WMBL’s softball academies, which would run on a not-for-profit basis, have also worked well in conjunction with a WMBL franchise.
Dale Tillman and Steve Avila told council that benefits to a given community run the gamut from tourism dollars, offering a distinctiveness for the town or city from other places in Central Alberta, spots several full time employees within three years and upgrades to current recreation facilities.
Other advantages include enhanced opportunities for young people in a community and other Central Alberta communities and spin-off business and jobs in the community.
“This is your highest level of baseball at the amateur level (that) would be coming into this community,” said Avila of the proposed project.
An academy would also give participants a better vision of where they want to go, potentially opening the door to greater opportunities, they told council.
Of course, in the long term, there would be a need for a WMBL top-rated ball park and at least three other parks with portable mounts and base paths that can adapt to baseball/softball, according to the council presentation.
Expectations from a community include serviced land, matching funds for the WMBL stadium, some help for the development of at least three other ball parks and help with the indoor facility.
Looking ahead, future goals include bringing the 15-year-old AABC World Series to Central Alberta which runs the second week of August, to develop a Baseball Hall of Fame in one section of an indoor facility and to work with Red Deer College in starting a college baseball program.
Costs range in the $8 million area for a WMBL franchise facility, and an indoor facility could cost about $2.3 million.
Other expenses would stem from turf fields and turf infields for a total of about $11.8 million.
Norma MacQuarrie, CAO for the City, said the contribution from the City of Lacombe, should the franchise ever come to the community, would be 50% plus the land.