UPDATE: Proposed Chatham baseball team swings for the fences

Fergie Jenkins Field in Chatham. (Photo courtesy of Chatham Minor Baseball Association)

Chatham-Kent is a step closer to its own team in the Intercounty Baseball League (IBL).

At their virtual meeting Monday night, municipal council members voted to authorize negotiations and enter into a multi-year agreement with the IBL.

The interested team owner contacted the municipality about a team in 2019, but because of COVID-19, the matter was put on hold until recently.

The IBL team is asking for a pilot project for two years in 2023 and 2024 with the hope of extending play for at least another three seasons.

“Currently, there is no Intercounty Baseball League team within Chatham-Kent and the closest team plays in London, Ontario. This creates a large population that could become fans of the team, as there is little competition in the area for this level of baseball,” wrote Director of Parks and Recreation Rob Pollock in a report going before council.

Chatham-Kent will benefit from an undetermined economic impact and increased tourism with teams coming to play in Chatham-Kent and out-of-town fans shopping at local businesses and eating at local restaurants, according to Pollock.

The report also noted that an IBL team could show that the municipality is a growing and vibrant community which may attract families to move here to enjoy the IBL team along with other sports teams already established within Chatham-Kent.

“There are some possible benefits of acquiring a local amateur and/or professional sports team as it can create a sense of identity for the community by giving the residents a team to support,” said Pollock. “It also allows for more social benefits of attending the games and events, and it creates a positive influence on young sports players and youth in the community.”

Cost-sharing will be negotiated and operating costs and revenue from facility rentals will be determined during the negotiation process. Pollock’s report stated an IBL team requires staffing levels at the games as well as increased ball diamond maintenance and other items.

The capital costs for the 2023 season are estimated at $75,000.