There’ll be infields of red at new and improved Huntsville ball diamonds

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Baseball players, you may want to get out the borax.

At their July 22 meeting, Huntsville councillors voted in favour of spending about $26,000 more in order to upgrade the infields at the McCulley-Robertson ball diamonds. They opted to go with a crushed brick mix surface, referred to as the Muskoka mix, the highest standard of the three options considered.

Cindy Summerfeldt Madeley of Hutcheson Sand and Gravel, the company that will be providing the infield mix, told council that Hutcheson’s Muskoka mix is very similar to Mar-Co Clay, the Washington ball mix.

“Our Muskoka mix is essentially the same material,” she said, adding that it’s made of crushed brick, raw clay, and sand. “The only difference would be we have granite sand, there down in the south they would have limestone sand.”

Council’s options were to use a standard mix, which would have provided the softest footing, a granite light mix, or the Muskoka mix.

“The Muskoka mix is not going to be a huge difference in maintenance from the granite light. They will be a little more than the standard mix,” she said. “The only negative thing I ever hear about Muskoka mix is it stains you, nobody likes the red colour. So, other than that I don’t think you’re ever going to please everyone… but I think you’re going to find that you’ll be very happy with either.”

The contract for the ball diamond improvements calls for a standard mix, but Huntsville Deputy Mayor Karin Terziano put a motion on the table asking council to consider an upgrade.

“I’m quite happy to go up to the $22,000 upgrade or to the $26,000, there’s a $4,000 difference to go to the red clay, brick mix, which is the highest level versus $22,000 to go to the mid-level. So I don’t know how the rest of council feels. I’m quite happy recommending either one,” she said.

Council heard that the project is currently about $270,000 under budget. The original budget set aside for the improvements was $1,492,000, while the tender is sitting at $1,222,000.

In the end, council voted in favour of the higher-end mix.

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2 Comments

  1. Peter Haynes on

    My name is Peter Haynes and I am the President of the Muskoka Hornets Baseball program – this year we had over 300 kids from throughout Muskoka in our program, including over 200 in our Huntsville house league. Up until now, I shied away generally from discussions in the press about the renovation at McCulley, preferring to work privately with staff and council to reach an outcome for the project that satisfies staff and the users and fits the budget of council.

    By way of background, the Muskoka Hornets are the largest user of McCulley and this summer for the 11th consecutive year, we hosted kids tournaments in the region and at McCulley involving 54 teams from across Ontario. Our conservative calculations suggest that this summer’s tournaments brought in over $400,000 in foot traffic to the region. For the past five years, at least, I have been arguing on behalf of users for an upgrade to the infield surfaces at McCulley. As a coach of a Muskoka Hornets rep team for the past 10 years, I travelled to over 100 diamonds in Ontario and the US and not one looks like McCulley’s current surface – all of the diamonds that are safe and playable have a clay mix in the infield surface (or are turf). Over 50% of the diamonds have infield surfaces that use Marco Clay’s mixes. You need to look no further than Peake Field in Bracebridge or Kerr Park to see what a proper infield surface looks like and plays like. Please keep in mind that this renovation is the first capital spend at McCulley in 30 years.

    Sadly, we are reminded each week when we play games at McCulley how the current infield surface is not up to par, especially after use during a day – in fact, it is terribly unsafe as the dirt surface creates ruts that are dangerous. The decision by council to move to a higher grade surface that includes clay is what should have been done initially, but is now being done to ensure the renovation results in an outcome that is good for the users. I can tell you it took a lot of back and forth discussions to reach this outcome. In all the meetings I had with council and with the other users, never once did anyone say the current surface is ok – I am not sure about the reference in the council documents referring to recreational users wanting a softer surface – that implies that recreational users prefer the status quo surface and that is NOT consistent with what we heard from users. In fact, our house league program would qualify as a so-called rec user and that is NOT what we asked for in our depositions.

    Regardless, this outcome is one that will be met very positively by users and, by extension, should be welcomed by local residents who want to make sure our community provides safe recreational facilities that present well to out of towners. On behalf of the Hornets, I want to thank Huntsville council for making a small increase to the budget to help the project meet the goals of the users.

    By the way, with a son who is in his 12th year of minor ball and liked to get dirty, I can assure you that a little detergent is all that is needed to get rid of any red clay stains on the uniforms.

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