Intercounty Baseball League approves Chatham franchise

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

One of Canada’s oldest baseball leagues will have a new team when the 2024 season starts.

The Intercounty Baseball League (IBL) announced Wednesday that its Board of Governors has approved an expansion franchise in Chatham. The team, which will be owned by Dom Dinelle, will begin play at Fergie Jenkins Field in 2024.

“We are grateful to the IBL Board of Governors for awarding us a new membership and we thank Mayor Darrin Canniff, the Chatham City Council for allowing us to call a stunning venue home,” said Dinelle. “Chatham is a terrific sports town and we look forward to making it a fantastic baseball town.”

The IBL currently has teams in London, Kitchener, Toronto, Welland, Barrie, Brantford, Guelph, and Hamilton.

The Chatham team, which has not yet been named, will be the league’s 9th. A “name the team” contest will be held. Details about the contest will be announced at a December 9 news conference.

“The IBL is excited to welcome the City of Chatham as our newest member,” said Ryan Harrison, IBL executive and owner of the Welland Jackfish. “We have a great working relationship with Dom and his management group, and we look forward to bringing IBL Baseball to the Chatham community in May 2024 and the creation of natural rivalries with London, Brantford, and Kitchener.”

At a recent meeting, Chatham councillors approved an agreement with Dinelle for the use of Fergie Jenkins Field.

The agreement between the team and the municipality is for five years and would require $195,500 from the Hydro One Community Benefit Contribution Reserve recently awarded to the municipality for field improvements. The field would get two new bleachers that would add 500 extra seats at a cost of $120,000.

Operating and lifecycle costs would also be pre-approved in the 2024-2027 budget. Operating costs would range from $82,000 in the first year of the agreement to $92,000 in 2028 and the team would pay $9,000 a year in rent to offset those costs.

Under the agreement, the team would be allowed to sell food and alcohol once the necessary permits were issued. Renewal of the agreement will be subject to further negotiations.

Dinelle approached the municipality in 2020 to pitch the idea, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic the project was put on hold. The idea gained momentum again early this year and negotiations were started this summer.


**with files from Paul Pedro and Millar Hill