Grand Forks could see the return of its annual baseball tournament this summer if border restrictions are lifted and if public health restrictions on gatherings are relaxed. Organizers cancelled last summer’s tournament in April 2020, citing concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
“We would love to put the tournament on,” Grand Forks International (GFI) Chairperson Steve Boutang told The Gazette Tuesday, Jan. 5. “But we’re not going to put the people of Grand Forks in jeopardy by bringing in a bunch of people from out of town if weren’t not sure that this is a safe thing to do.”
Speaking from Abbotsford, B.C., Buotang said tournament planners have “a full stable of high-caliber teams” from Canada and the United States who have expressed interest playing in a prospective GFI. But a tournament can’t go ahead unless the province allows large outdoor gatherings, presumably as vaccination efforts significantly flatten the curve of COVID-19 infection rates.
“There’s 101 things that have to happen and go right,” Boutang explained, but some kind of GFI is tentatively possible for the summer of 2021. A national tournament could go ahead if social gatherings were allowed but the Canada-U.S border stayed closed, he added.
“It would be smaller, but that’s certainly a plan b that we’ve explored.”
There are normally around 10 teams that participate in the GFI. Historically, most hail from United States and Latin America, with around two teams coming from Canada, Boutang said.
Stressing that any future tournament would hinge on COVID safety, Boutang highlighted the tournament’s economic significance to Grand Forks’ tourist economy. A successful GFI would bring an influx of around $1 million to local businesses, he said.
Meanwhile, COVID safety measures are underway at James Donaldson Park, which hosts the tournament. Kitchen and food vending upgrades, including stainless steal counter tops and plexiglass barriers, are scheduled to be added soon, he said. Plexiglass barriers will also be installed at the ball diamond’s front gates, with hand sanitizing stations dotted throughout the grounds.
Boutang said the GFI will likely decide whether or not to commit to a summer tournament in March.