James Donaldson Park usage discussed at Grand Forks’ inaugural committee of the whole meeting

The City of Grand Forks is looking into revising the policy for the use of James Donaldson Park.

The City of Grand Forks is looking into revising the usage policy for James Donaldson Park.

The City of Grand Forks is looking into revising the usage policy for James Donaldson Park.

The City of Grand Forks is looking into revising the policy for the use of James Donaldson Park.

At the March 4 City of Grand Forks first committee of the whole meeting, a motion was passed a motion unanimously to recommend to city council to research and develop a new policy regarding the ballpark’s use.

Council acknowledged the importance and significance of the park to the city and the important role that it has played in defining the city for many visitors, as well as residents.

“Yes, it is a gem,” Mayor Brian Taylor said, “And historically it has been a major part of the community’s culture. However, I think the time has come to look at resources like that and ensure that they are really paying their way in terms of the quality of life that we are trying to establish within this community.”

The other councillors agreed.

Coun. Neil Krog said that when the last rounds of improvements were made to the park, the reason the city wanted to undertake them was to make the complex more attractive to other potential users. “The idea,” Krog said, “Was to expand its use.” He suggested in particular that the venue may serve the arts community. “We do not want to do anything at the expense of the GFI (Grand Forks International baseball tournament),” Krog added, “But rather as a supplement to it.” He said that increased revenue generated by multiple users would help ensure continued maintenance and improvement.

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Doug Allin commented that policies regarding the booking of the facility would need revision. Timelines need to clarified, he said, so that dates when the park is to be booked for baseball are known well in advance. In addition, he said the buildings on the site might be booked and used separately from the field itself.

Using the park for fastball, Taylor said, was a way of perhaps increasing the park’s utility.

“The baseball tournament has been highly successful historically in the past but has been struggling in the last few years. On the other hand, softball, or fastball, whatever you want to call it, that sport has been going crazy, and though we do have playing fields around our town, we don’t have anything where we can stage a provincial class tournament, which James Donaldson Park would give us. It gives us an opportunity to make better use of what we have, a million dollar asset in the middle of town,” Taylor said adding, “I would hate to see the baseball tournament disappear and I am wondering if there isn’t some way we could have both.”

Before the park can be used for other purposes, Coun. Gary Smith acknowledged that the current restrictions on the park’s use would have to be revised.

As of July 20, 2009, as stated in Policy 1201, no changes to the park’s configuration are allowed, including altering the pitcher’s mound.  Smith remarked that it is possible to adapt the park to other needs and not affect the park’s value as a baseball field.

He cited a number of professional ball diamonds, including Yankee Stadium, where the pitcher’s mound is added and removed as needed.

Allin recommended that, because of the necessity for a thorough review, no change in policy would be made for 2013, but that after public consultation, changes if required would be put into effect for 2014.