Rave reviews for upgraded Oakes Park
Oakes Park in Niagara Falls has undergone several impressive upgrades for the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games.
The park, located just a long home run from the Falls, is almost unrecognizable after months of hard work.
The upgrades are noticeable immediately upon entry.
New, bigger dugouts complete with hat racks, new turf-covered bullpens, trees planted beyond the outfield fence, new mesh on the outfield fence, and perhaps most importantly, a gorgeous new field.
“They wanted it to be a premier diamond and we’ve heard wonderful things,” Canada Games Baseball Sport Lead Geoff Allen said. “Even one of the Jays scouts said this is the best this park has ever looked and he’s been scouting since the 80s.
“It looks like a ballpark now. It’s a 90-year-old baseball field that looks like a national level park. It’s a national level tournament, and it’s a national level field now.”
Fast forward a couple of decades and Allen would love nothing more than for Oakes to remain in such pristine condition.
“The legacy piece becomes if we can keep this diamond exactly like it is now,” he said. “It’s great to have it for a week, but we’d like to have it look like this for 20 years.”
Allen gave props to the City of Niagara Falls and its workers for their hard work.
“The staff have been showing up at 6 a.m. and the city allowed them to be here in order to do it right,” he said. “They are doing it one million per cent right.”
Jeff Thompson, Parks Supervisor for the City of Niagara Falls, has been agonizing over the field for the past several months.
“I’ve been waking up at four in the morning thinking about baseball diamonds and grass and not being able to get back to sleep,” Thompson said. “It’s been quite an ordeal.”
Thompson said the original plan was to just upgrade the infield.
“We started in the infield and had that done and then I convinced them to do the outfield. It was last minute but we ended up pulling it off, between us and Touchstone (Site) Contractors, who were fantastic.”
Thompson admitted he is taking the job personally.
“People drive by my house and think I have a problem with my grass,” he joked. “I teach my guys that when you care this is the final product.”
Thompson said literally no stone was left unturned.
“We had guys walking the (warning) track pulling weeds by hand. Now that we have it this way, it should be easier to keep it,” he said.
Allen is hopeful one more final piece of the puzzle can be added.
“We still have a legacy piece that hasn’t happened yet and that’s our new hitting tunnels,” he said. “We really need to get that piece so we can really develop our kids, not just four months on the diamonds, but now we get into eight-10 months a year if we can get covered turf hitting tunnels at Houck Park.”
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