The Pembina Royals Cricket team at the Assinaboine Park in Winnipeg.
By Joel Nickel
Winkler has tennis courts, baseball diamonds, and soccer fields, and now Winkler will have its first cricket pitch.
“The City of Winkler agreed to prep the area, to maintain it, and the Northlands Parkway Collegiate is going to provide the property and the cricket group is actually going to put the pitch in,” Winkler Mayor, Martin Harder said.
Last summer, Garden Valley School Division was approached by Zahid Zehri, president of the Pembina Royals Cricket Club about partnering with them to create a designated cricket pitch.
“We tried to accommodate [the Cricket Club] with a land request on some of our existing school yards,” Vern Reimer, Superintendent of Garden Valley School Division, said. “We started over at Emerado Elementary School ... we looked at that and paced things out and we were trying to figure out, is this going to work out?”
It was determined that the space at Emerado was not going to be adequate. As a requirement of playing at the provincial and national level, the cricket pitch needed to be at full dimensions. From there, GVSD looked at Winkler Elementary School.
“The bottom line was that we didn’t have something big enough,” Reimer said. “But then we thought of partnering with the City of Winkler.”
Earlier in the year, the Pembina Royals Cricket Club had made a presentation to the city at a council meeting about the need for a regulation sized cricket pitch and the city took the pitch to heart.
“[Cricket is] a relatively new sport [in Winkler], they also have regional competitions including tournaments with Winnipeg,” Harder said. “I watched a game [the Winnipeg team] came out for and the group from Winkler did very well in the provincial competition and this [cricket pitch] simply brings another group of players to the community and I think it’s an added feature that will have some long term benefits.”
Rick Denison and Pete Froeze from the Winkler Rec Department contacted Vern Reimer at GVSD and pondered what would happen if they were to develop the 10 acres immediately east of the 20 acres that Northlands Parkway Collegiate sits on.
“That land goes up to the treeline so the idea was that we should partner,” Reimer said. “If the School Division provides the land and the city were to develop the land, landscape it, seed it, maintain it, and then the third party, [the Pembina Royals Cricket Club] would have some financial responsibility to put in the actual cricket pitch.”
Reimer said GVSD has just finished putting together a land lease agreement between GVSD and the City of Winkler.
“What will basically happen is that we will lease 10 acres of land on an annual basis to the City of Winkler for $1,” Reimer said. “Then [the City] will look after the input costs of development and maintenance and they’ll put in the grass and so on and the Cricket Club will put in the pitch.”
“We established our Cricket Club in April 2015 ... and finally we have good news that the city in collaboration with GVSD [will give] cricket a home in Winkler,” Zahid Zehri said.
This new cricket pitch means that the Pembina Royals will be able to compete in the 2019 Manitoba Games.
“In order to get into the games we have to have more than one facility other that Winnipeg,” Zehri said. “In Winnipeg we do have three pitches but we did not have another pitch other than I believe Gimli. So I’m very glad that we [are creating a cricket pitch] and we’re going to be in the 2019 Manitoba Games.”
Not only does a cricket pitch bring in fans of cricket to Winkler, it exposes those who may not be familiar with the game.
“We can also bring in some regional and league tournaments to Winkler, which is done by the Manitoba Cricket Association,” Zehri said.
Zehri anticipates that seeding of the grounds will start in May and by the middle of August they’ll be able to cut the grass and create a surface where they can put the pitch.
“Pitch usually doesn’t take too much time, maybe two or three days and then it’ll be ready to go,” Zehri said. “I’m hoping by the middle of August, and then we’ll have one month maybe that we’ll still be able to play in this season.”