Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Transcona to keep 'mini Wrigley Field'

50-year-old stadium will remain in use

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Transcona Stadium

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Transcona Stadium, believed by many in the baseball community to have a date with a wrecking ball at the end of the season, will live to play another decade or three.

Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt said after a four-year public consultation on recreation in the community, it was determined the stadium on Kildare Avenue East should remain in use.

He said a committee looked at possible reuse of the stadium site, including building a library or an indoor recreational complex, such as a YMCA, but there wasn't enough space to do it.

Instead, construction of a new library, a $5.3-million project, is set to begin later this year at the corner of Transcona Boulevard and Plessis Road. It will take about 12 months to build. A nearby YMCA/YWCA will follow in 2016 or 2017.

"Winnipeg has really fallen behind when it comes to building recreational facilities. You go to other cities and you see brand-new facilities, 75,000 square feet with a pool, daycare, work out room and aerobics," Wyatt said.

It was thought the construction of the Buhler Recreation Park in south Transcona in 2007, which has eight softball diamonds and one hardball diamond on its 150 acres, would mean Transcona Stadium was no longer needed.

Transcona Stadium, which is more than 50 years old, can seat about 400 people. It was used as a practice facility during the 1999 Pan Am Games.

Henry Constant, 80, who has spent much of his retirement as the stadium's groundskeeper, said he'll be happy to keep cutting the infield grass, putting down the foul line chalk and nailing down the bases.

"I think it's great that it's going to stay open. It's good news for everybody," he said.

Constant compared the stadium to the classic home of the Chicago Cubs.

"It's a 'mini Wrigley Field,' " he said. "I've been going there for so many years, it's like a second home to me," he said.

Indeed, he has been involved in America's pastime for 45 years, which began when he started coaching his sons, Claude, Guy and Gilles, when they were in Little League many years ago.

Dennis Sworyk, coach of the Red River Pioneers Bantam AAA who play at the stadium, was also glad to hear it would not be demolished.

"That's awesome. I think it's got a lot of history to it. It adds something positive to Transcona. It's good that they can save a recreation facility like that for kids to use for years to come," he said.

"We get a lot of compliments from people from around the city who come to play here."

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 20, 2014 B3

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