The province has told the City of Thompson that Red Sangster Baseball Diamond will not be spared from bulldozers when construction begins on the new University College of the North campus in the area surrounding the high school and recreation centre.
The master plan for the campus calls for single student housing to be built on the land that the baseball field occupies.
Mayor Tim Johnston says that until a few weeks ago, he believed the province was willing to spare the field, named for Thompson resident Red Sangster, who served as recreation director in the 1960s and remains involved with organization of baseball in the city to this day. The facility has hosted both the Manitoba baseball provincials and the Western Canadian Championships in the past.
The province may agree, however, to construct a new baseball diamond slightly east of the current one, on the former Nickel Days site north of the track and soccer fields behind the Thompson Regional Community Centre.
The city had suggested that housing be built on that parcel of land, but the provincial government dismissed the idea, arguing that geotechnical analysis of that area revealed mine slag and that the cost of bringing it up to environmental standards would be too great.
Sangster, who has lived in Thompson nearly 50 years, disagrees with that assessment, saying that the ground underneath the baseball field is more likely to consist of mine slag than the overflow parking site where the field will be moved.
Johnston admits that the area around R.D. Parker Collegiate and the recreation centre is not ideal for UCN from a planning standpoint, with traffic problems likely to be a concern, but says the decision to build there was made by the provincial government after UCN developed a list of potential sties for a new campus. The mayor said he would rather see the campus, which the province has pledged $33 million in funding for, built there, even at the expense of the ball diamond, than see any further delays in construction, which has not moved forward since Gary Doer announced the provincial funding for the project in the spring of 2007.
Johnston and city manager Randy Patrick say they would like to see construction of the campus housing begin by this fall, but have told the province the field must be available to use until September.
The city would also like to see upgrades to what the current baseball field has - such as dugouts, change rooms, lights and bleachers - as part of the swap, which would see the other recreation centre field, used for fastball and slo-pitch, eliminated entirely.
Johnston says he will make it clear that he expects a field worthy of hosting the Western Canadian Championships as a replacement for Red Sangster field. He also said that the new facility would retain the same name.