Altona residents should get behind the idea of the new $750,000 baseball facility according to former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Duane Ward and former Winnipeg Goldeyes player Max Poulin.
That's the message they brought to the Field of Dreams fundraising banquet held in Altona, on April 13.
The $100 per plate dinner filled the hall with 250 guests gathered to hear the vision of Field of Dreams committee members, and soak up some baseball memories from the guest speakers.
If there was doubt that Altona is a baseball town, that was put to rest early. Altona Minor Baseball president Conley Kehler talked about the success of past teams. In fact in 2011, 11 of 12 Altona baseball teams played in the provincial championship. Altona is the smallest community with a AAA junior team as well.
Ken Wiebe outlined the vision for the new facility which will no longer be referred to as Field of Dreams. Instead, because of Access Credit Union's $100,000 commitment to the project, it is now called Access Field.
The Altona business community has already donated $50,000, and at least $10,000 was raised at the dinner, bringing their total to $160,000.
The project is divided into three phases with phase one costing $250,000. That includes grading, levelling, berms, grass, trees, fencing, dugouts, red clay and irrigation.
The second phase will cost $150,000 and will include a scoreboard, PA and media booth and seating. The third phase will cost $350,000 and will include lights, a field house and canteen.
Altona mayor Mel Klassen applauded the organizers for their vision. "Baseball is an integral part of the community," he said.
MLA Cliff Graydon said it amazes him how Altona has the ability to dream big and accomplish their goals. "I brag about Altona wherever I go," he said.
After being entertained by Rosenfeld born comedian Rachel Sommer, the audience heard from Winnipeg Goldeyes player Max Poulin, who retired in 2011 after 676 games, 14 club records, and a season where he had only seven errors in over 400 defensive plays. He talked about growing up in a community where the goal was to make it to the big baseball diamond. "When you're a kid you just dream about playing where the big guys are," he said.
He commended the organizers. "It's just awesome to have a group of people work so hard to make a stadium for your kids," he said.
Former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Duane Ward has lived the dream, not only playing in the big leagues, but becoming a World Series Champion.
From Farmington, New Mexico, Ward is from the hometown of the Connie Mack World Series.
He saw first hand what great baseball facilities can do for a community.
"The new ball park is going to be such a Godsend to all your kids," he said. "You guys are going to allow other communities to come in and see a great baseball facility."
"It is something that's going to be phenomenal," he said.
"You guys need to do this," he added. "You need to get behind it. It's going to do nothing but great things for your community."
Committee chair Ken Wiebe said they were pleased with the event, saying people were excited to be a part of it.
"We feel we accomplished our goal of raising community awareness of the project and raising some funds for the project," he said. "It also gave us another opportunity to thank Access Credit Union for their faith in the project and providing the push we needed to get the dirt moving and the project being built."