Sarnia’s oldest baseball field is about to undergo a million dollar upgrade.
Errol Russell Park and its field — renamed Stan Slack Field in 2016 — is the most prestigious and best manicured baseball facility in the city.
But the field house and failing bleachers, built in 1950, have been demolished because of liability concerns.
City council awarded a $1-million contract last month to Maaten Construction to rebuild the facility with a new field house, accessible washrooms, small concession area, storage space, a utilities room and partially covered bleachers.
On the field a new brick backstop, safety netting and poles will be installed.
“When they get it done, we’re hoping to get people back in here,” said John Vasey, treasurer of the Sarnia Braves baseball organization.
“It will draw more teams, it’ll draw more people to come and watch. We’d really like to see this park come back to life.”
Parks and recreation director Rob Harwood said the new bleachers will include ramps for people in wheelchairs and motorized devices, as well as designated wheelchair seating.
The ramps will cost $55,000, with the money taken from an accessibility reserve.
Access from the street will also be improved to make it easier for people with mobility devices to reach the park from the street.
“Unfortunately, older style facilities haven’t been that friendly to those who have mobility issues,” he said.
“This will allow a far more inclusive environment to come out and enjoy the games.”
Braves officials were consulted in the reconstruction of the park, which is used by several age divisions of the organization and for high school baseball.
The 6.8-acre property at 610 Devine St. also hosts tournaments featuring out-of-town teams, such as the recent Stan Slack International Wood Bat Tournament that featured six teams from Ontario and Ohio.
Since 1950, the park has hosted many provincial tournaments as well as the 1969 junior national tournament, which the Braves won, said Vasey.
Among the alumni are Stan and Bill Slack, Jason Birmingham, Mike Gardner and Rob Thompson, who all played at Errol Russell and went on to play or coach in the pros.
The $1 million contract — awarded to the lowest of five bidders — was considerably more than the $400,000 to $700,000 originally estimated for the park improvements.