This is the first in a series of blog posts about places where a minor league baseball park could be built in various Maritime centres. I have discussed some of these in the past but I will go into farther detail in this series of posts and each proposed location will have its own post. For my first post, I will discuss re-developing Wanderers Grounds in Halifax into a multi sport faculty that can accommodate baseball.
Wanderers Grounds has hosted athletic events of all sorts since that late 1880’s. Baseball was played here from 1942 to the early 21st century. I will be posting more historical information about the grounds in a future post. Since 2004-ish the field has been used mostly for football and rugby. Baseball is now played out in the North Common next to the Canada Games Centre. But what if Halifax was able to redevelop the grounds into something bigger and better. I am thinking building a clone of Royal Athletic Park in Victoria. Royal Athletic Park (RAP) hosts a variety of events. Namely, the facility is able to host baseball (HarbourCats, West Coast League) and soccer (Highlanders, Premier Development League). RAP has also hosted rugby, football and lacrosse in the past.
A facility similar to RAP should be able to work in Halifax. There are many similarities between the two cities. The population of metro Victoria (2011 Census) was 344,630 compared to HRM’s population of 390,095. The seating capacity of RAP is 3800 permanent seats and up to 10,000 when expanded. Both cities are the major naval ports on their respective coasts. Both are also provincial capitals.
Building such a facility in Halifax could lead to bringing events like minor league baseball and soccer to the city. Baseball can be accommodated by place a collapsible fence and placing seating the corner where home plate would be located, as is done in Victoria. More seating could be located down a baseline to accommodate sports like football, soccer & rugby. A properly maintained grass field means last summer’s rugby exhibition between Team Canada & the Glasgow Warriors won’t have been relocated to Spryfield at the last-minute.
Wanderers Grounds would be an ideal location for small-scale stadium as it is centrally located (easy access from the West End, South End and downtown). As it’s reasonably close to downtown, the bars and restaurants in the area would get extra business on game nights. The same could be said for the places on Quinpool Road. Parking would be a small issue, but that is always the case in that part of town. Also, Wanderers Grounds has the advantage of history, which I think is an important bonus. Babe freaking Ruth played baseball there! Not many current ball fields can make that claim.
Using the measurement tool on Google Earth, the footprint of Wanderers Grounds is about 565 feet long, 475 feet wide (by Robie Street) and 375 feet wide (by the lawn bowling club). I am including dirt parking lot used by city workers in this calculation as it was part of the old baseball field. For comparison’s sake, the footprint of RAP in Victoria is 605 feet long and 450 feet wide. So you should be able to cram a small stadium in on the site without having to move anything else off the site. The only modification would be the city’s vehicles would have to use an entrance off of Bell Road instead of Summer Street. There would be no issue with anything else on the site (lawn bowling, greenhouses, history museum or Bengal Lancers).
Due to the weird measurements (it’s 100 feet wider on one end), a Halifax stadium would have to be slightly different from the one in Victoria. As seen in the image above, home plate was located in what is now the parking lot. Due to the lack of space, there won’t be many seats located directly behind home plate in this proposal (as it would cut into both museum parking and Bengal Lancer’s outdoor ring). Worse case scenario, Seating may overlap with the part of the ring that is visible in this picture, but no more. Home plate would have a few rows of seats (likely club seats) and a couple of private boxes behind he seating. Most of the seating would be down the first and third base lines. More boxes (both private boxes and the press box) would be located on the baselines. By my estimate, you could even move the plate and mound back a few feet to create more room for seating and still have ~400 feet to centre field fence.
Another option is to ignore the historic layout and place home plate near the corner of Robie & Sackville. The would allow the seating to be placed along Robie and Sackville Streets. Similar how RAP has seating along Vancouver (left in picture) and Caledonia (below) Streets. This could maintain part of the parking lot and driveway located between the field and Bengal Lancers. If home plate is located around the football sideline (which would make the seating a similar size as at RAP), you should be able to shoehorn in left field, as there is ample room for both centre field and right field. This is probably the better of the two options in terms of a multi-purpose layout.
Either way, a small-scale (3500-10,000 seat) stadium would be an asset to the city. A stadium of that size could be used for minor league baseball & soccer, high school football, CFL exhibitions, international soccer & rugby friendlies and other local, national & international tournaments in the aforementioned sports. This would also give the city a (supposedly) well maintained grass field which is sorely needed (as evidenced by last year’s rugby exhibition). It would also be relatively cheap & easy to build. All that would be required is a baseball grandstand surrounding the infield area, an extended bleacher along one sideline for football, rugby & soccer, new sod for the field, new scoreboard and a new lighting arrangement to accommodate the new layout. Also needed would be locker rooms, concession area, washrooms and boxes (press & private) in the seating area. I am not sure exactly what that would cost, but I doubt it would be much more than $12 million.