The wait is over
It’s been like waiting for a moon-ball pitch to reach the plate but, Kamloops slo-pitch lovers — the time to swing away is finally here.
Rayleigh Slo-Pitch Park, a multi-million-dollar facility located about 10 minutes north of downtown Kamloops, will see its first action today (July 15) when a 40-plus team tourney gets underway.
Kamloops’ parks, project and planning supervisor Nick DeCicco took KTW on a tour of the park on Wednesday, July 13.
Phase 1 of the project — a $9.79-million endeavour — is not quite complete, but it’s easy to see how the park is expected to be a jewel in the Tournament Capital’s crown.
There are eight slo-pitch diamonds, all of which are ready for use, two rugby fields, which will be ready for action by next spring at the latest, a main plaza and plenty of leisure space.
Together, the 10 fields span about 70 acres of the 300-acre plot.
An equestrian park, Kamloops Exhibition Association facilities and an agricultural complex will likely be included in Rayleigh’s future plans, DeCicco said.
A portion of the remaining land is owned by the Tk’emlúps Indian Band (TIB).
The TIB’s land is split into two parcels — one on the southwest corner of the property (that area has been earmarked as an RV park) and the other on the northernmost end of the property, near Tolko Industries.
DeCicco expects Phase 1 to reach completion by the end of this year or early next spring.
“When people come from out of town and they see fields that are striped like the major leagues and everything is groomed and trimmed, I guarantee they’ll be blown away by the standard of what they’re playing on,” said DeCicco, noting the park is designed with a Western theme.
“And, if it’s a sunny day, these guys are going to be in slo-pitch heaven.”
The park’s project management team consists of DeCicco and city employees Kristen Meersman, capital projects manager, and Mike Doll, parks project manager.
Crews first broke ground on June 21, 2010.
Read on for an in-depth look at the facility.
- The Diamonds
There are two premier diamonds and six standard diamonds, on which the fences are 300 feet away from home plate.
For now, players can look forward to swinging the bat under the lights on both premier diamonds.
Provisions have been made for the future implementation of lights on two more diamonds.
“All the stuff is in the ground and hydro and electric panels are set up,” DeCicco said.
“It’s just about when the appetite and funding is there to do it.”
The premier dugouts are 40 feet long and feature 30-foot benches; the standard dugouts are 30 feet long with 20-foot benches.
In keeping with the Western theme, fir wood beams cradle the aluminum roofs of Rayleigh’s 16 dugouts
Black fencing will do its part to keep the dugouts’ inhabitants from suffering any black eyes.
The premier fields have scoreboards, which are remotely operated from the dugouts.
Power and water hookups are available in the premier-field dugouts.
Bleachers and a built-in seating area behind home plate will provide room for about 270 people on each of the premier diamonds.
On each of the standard diamonds, there are bleachers which seat about 60 people behind home plate and there is room to expand spectator seating, if necessary.
The city owns two portable bleachers — each of which seat about 250 people — that will be used at the park during large-scale tournaments.
DeCicco said the city might purchase two more of those bleachers next year.
The grass on the slo-pitch diamonds was grown at Western Turf Farms in Chilliwack.
It’s a mixture of 70 per cent Kentucky bluegrass, 20 per cent perennial ryegrass and 10 per cent fescue.
“It’s premier grass for sports fields,” said DeCicco, noting it’s the same seed mixture used on McArthur Island’s soccer pitches.
- KRC’s new home and its rugby fields
Kamloops Rugby Club (KRC) is slated to move into the Rayleigh park next spring.
A rugby clubhouse will be the focal point of KRC’s portion of the new park, but the club is still formulating building plans and fundraising for the project.
“Once they’re satisfied that they have some money and they want to go forward, they will come back to us and show us their plan and we’ll talk about it,” DeCicco said.
“We’ve got power, water and sewage, and we’ve got what they need for future development.”
The original plan was to have three rugby fields, but “rugby preferred that all of the fields run east-west so, in order to accommodate that, we had to eliminate one field,” DeCicco said.
Field 1, which is in the northeast section of the park, will sit directly in front of the KRC’s clubhouse when it’s completed.
Field 2 will lie to the west of Field 1.
Both fields will be international-size rugby fields, 140-metres long (40 of those metres make up the in-goal area) and 70-metres wide.
There are no lights on either rugby field. (No time frame has been set, but lights on Field 1 is likely in KRC’s future.)
The city will be in charge of maintaining the rugby fields.
“It will be maintained to our standard of sports field and I’m sure the rugby guys will be quite happy with that,” DeCicco said.
“They’ll get regular maintenace and mowing.”
The city seeded the fields (using the same Kentucky-perennial-fescue mixture) in mid-May and over-seeded them last week.
They will be fertilized “a couple more times and be lush by spring,” DeCicco said.
- Main plaza a multi-purpose facility
The main plaza consists of two floors, the bottom floor to be used mostly as a concession area, the top floor primarily as an area for tourney organizers.
Yet to be completed is the concession area, which will eventually house deep fryers, vents, coolers, fridges, sinks, a stove and a food-preparation table.
The building is home to three stainless-steel clad washrooms — one male, one female and one gender-neutral.
While the upstairs of the plaza will be home primarily to tournament organizers, it will also be a multi-purpose area, used by umpires and for storage.
DeCicco is especially proud of the courtyard-like gathering area near the plaza.
It’s the part of the park where the Western theme is most evident and it will make for an ideal award-presentation stage.
Surrounding the gathering area are sizeable patches of grass, which DeCicco described as “passive areas.”
- Hooking the big fish
While the bread and butter of the new slo-pitch facility might be local spring, summer and fall leagues, the Rayleigh park is designed to host big-time tourneys.
“It’s like the old saying — if you build it, they will come,” said DeCicco, a city employee for 32 years.
“People will start applying and saying, ‘Yeah, we want to come and use your city for provincials and nationals,’ and we can host it all.”
DeCicco said the city already has its eyes on hosting slo-pitch nationals in the next few years.
“That’s always our goal as the Tournament Capital and we’ve already had interest,” he said.
“I know from speaking to our booking clerk.”
- Rayleigh park tidbits
• 250,000 square metres of turf cover the park’s 10 fields.
• There are 150 irrigation areas in the park. Water is pumped from the river into a pond and then onto the fields.
• 150 trees were bought and planted in the park. There will be about 300 trees when the park reaches completion.
• The park’s drinking water is stored underneath the main plaza in a cistern that can hold 10,000 gallons of liquid.
• The park is a seasonal park, open from April to the end of September. Five full-time staff will be employed at the park when it’s open.
• There is no dog park, but dogs will be allowed in the park if they’re on a leash.