In Pat Cassidy’s eyes, four years feels like an eternity.
The Edmonton Prospects owner remembers hosting the 2019 Western Canadian Baseball League All-Star Game.
Staring at the field at Seaman Stadium as the Okotoks Dawgs hosted the 2023 edition, Cassidy is hoping to host the game again one day.
After being a traveling home team for a couple of years, the Prospects decided to take a leave of absence this summer to concentrate entirely on getting their new ballpark in Spruce Grove ready for the 2024 campaign.
While it was a difficult decision, Cassidy knows it was the right one with the challenges of labour shortages, cost adjustments, and supply-chain issues.
“I think the one thing that most people have to understand is not only are we building a ballpark, but we’re actually building a 65-acre ballpark district,” he said during the All-Star Game pre-game show on HomeTeam Live.
Cassidy says step one was clearing forested land so they could start putting in services, however, the project is once again facing delays.
“Construction at Myshak Metro Ballpark is ongoing but several challenges with respect to material deliveries remain a challenge that could affect the opening date for the facility,” he said in an Oct. 23 news release.
The Prospects will return to the field in 2024, but Cassidy says they are working with Sherwood Park Minor Baseball Association to shore up use of Centennial Park, Diamond #9 for “some or all of their schedule.”
While he is hopeful that an opening can happen sometime next summer, Cassidy says it was important to come up with a backup plan, given the scope of the project and some of the remaining challenges for a team looking to find a new home for quite some time.
NEW LEASE ON LIFE
It all started just a few weeks after Cassidy and the Prospects hosted the aforementioned mid-summer classic.
The club found itself in front of Edmonton city council pitching massive improvements to Re/Max Field and the surrounding river valley area.
Within a year, Cassidy and the Prospects were looking for a home, as the city decided to hand the lease over to a group headed by Dr. Randy Gregg, who would eventually bring the West Coast League to town in the form of the Edmonton Riverhawks.
Cassidy didn’t have to wait or look very far, announcing in September 2020 that the team would be moving northwest to Spruce Grove for the 2022 season.
The team played the abbreviated 2021 WCBL season at a handful of alternate locations including Henry Singer Ball Park in Spruce Grove and Centennial Park Field 9 in Sherwood Park, advancing to the league final where they lost to the Lethbridge Bulls.
BIRD’S THE WORD
Despite the best efforts of everyone involved, hopes to get the project done by the start of the 2022 season were dashed when they flew into some unexpected delays – most notably in the form of birds.
The Migratory Bird Act requires a bird sweep to be done before any trees are removed for a development, and Cassidy told CTV News at the time that plenty of birds and nests were found, leading to a lengthy delay.
“We had to wait for the nesting season to end and all of the birds to do what migratory birds do, which is fly south,” he said, adding it was important to address some of the community concerns around the area’s environmental footprint.
So the traveling roadshow continued in 2022, with the main home being back in Sherwood Park, where the Prospects finished the year out of the playoffs with a 20-36 record.
After that season, the Prospects took stock of where they were, both logistically and realistically, deciding early on that they would forego the 2023 season to focus solely on building what they believe will be a crown jewel for the community.
“Of course, being in the construction industry for 40-some years, you put plans down on paper and you push hard to make it happen,” Cassidy said.
“But you’re reliant on Mother Nature, reliant on contractors, you’re reliant on supply chain and in today’s market that’s even more challenging then it’s ever been.”
Those words would prove to be true, given the most recent challenges.
READ MORE: Building Baseball
In the latest update from the Prospects, they say water, sanitary and storm services are done while electrical services should be complete by the end of October.
Cassidy says the next critical steps will be foundations and structural steel, which could be held up and delay the scheduling.
Despite all of the challenges the team has faced in recent years, Cassidy says he is heartened by the support of the communities of Spruce Grove, Sherwood Park and the entire Edmonton region.
He says fans are scooping up season tickets and suites, while sponsors are lining up for opportunities like outfield signage – and all before vertical construction began.
“To be honest, it’s exceeded any of my expectations in terms of how that community of Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland have really taken us in,” Cassidy said.
He adds, even though the community is also adding a new twin-ice arena, “all people ever really want to talk about is the ballpark.”
It goes beyond the ballpark as well, in Cassidy’s eyes, as he’s hoping to build a tourist attraction including condos or apartments, restaurants and an amphitheatre as part of an entertainment district.
“What I’ve learned over the years is it’s important to create a community facility and a connection in all aspects of the community,” he said. “All segments of the community, not just baseball fans, but those looking for social and entertainment opportunities.”
For the baseball fans, Cassidy is excited to get the Prospects back on the field sooner rather than later.
“Sherwood Park has been incredible to deal with the last four years as they have taken the whole Metro Edmonton concept to heart and understand that the continued existence and growth of the Edmonton Prospects is a good thing for grassroots baseball – not only in the capital city, but throughout the entire Metro Edmonton and Northern Alberta regions,” Cassidy said in the latest statement.
The team will also be reaching out to business partners and season ticket holders to discuss their plans.