Hall of Fame baseball star Roberto Alomar is stepping up to the plate to help secure the future of RE/MAX field in Edmonton.
The former Toronto Blue Jay sent an email on March 7 to Mayor Don Iveson and city council voicing his support to keep the park open as part of ongoing plans to redevelop the Rossdale neighbourhood.
“I have made a commitment … to do whatever I can do to see that this ballpark remains an integral and important piece of the Edmonton landscape,” Alomar said in his letter.
“I can’t emphasize enough the importance of this ballpark for baseball in Alberta.”
Alomar was in the city Feb. 24 for the 2nd annual Edmonton Prospects Gala.
During a Q & A at the event, Alomar pledged to write the letter to Iveson.
“We told (Alomar) the potential of the ballpark remaining here is in doubt,” said Prospects assistant general manager Jordan Blundell.
“He’s 100 per cent behind us, supporting us in continuing to build with this facility here in the river valley.”
The organization signed it’s current licence agreement with the city in 2016. It expires April 1, 2020, with a one-year renewal option that could take the term to 2021.
“No ax hanging over ball diamond”: Iveson
Iveson said he has not read Alomar’s letter. He said he was not aware of any concrete plans to close the park.
“There’s no ax hanging over the ball diamond,” said Iveson. “We haven’t made any decisions one way or the other. Certainly there have been speculations over the years about redevelopment of the ballpark (but) the city has no intention to do that at this time.”
The park is within the boundary of the River Crossing Business Plan. It’s a multi-year redevelopment project to transform the West Rossdale neighbourhood, including the Rossdale Power Plant.
Council first gave the green light to start planning the redevelopment in 2015. The project is now in the early stages of public consultation, and a final report is expected to go to council by late 2018.
The city has said the project won’t be up for funding until the 2019-2022 budget cycle.
Game attendance low
Blundell said the team is averaging about 1,600 people per game, though the venue can seat just over 9,000. He said they currently get about 7,000 people for the Canada day event, proving the field has overall community value.
“It’s a baseball stadium but it’s also multi purpose. We’ve got events coming up with the boys and girls club,” said Blundell. “The armed forces and the city police use our facility.”
Iveson said the city is aware that attendance is low but hopes to work with the team into the future.
“There’s no particular agenda other than to honour the lease commitments we have with the Prospects at this time, and work with them to expand both the baseball use as well as the ancillary uses such as concerts, things like that that help sustain the facility,” he said.