Facility development plans for baseball and softball to go ahead

Mon 14 Mar 2011

Plans to build new baseball and softball facilities will go ahead following recent confirmation that BSUK's capital funding from Sport England has survived the worst of the government cuts.

While Sport England was forced to slash its Capital Grants Scheme for facility funding to sports by 40% on average, BSUK emerged with a cut of "just" 28%, and retains £290,000 of what was originally scheduled to be a grant of £400,000.

The funding is the first of its kind from Sport England and marks the largest investment in facilities made to baseball and softball in the UK.

Small grants to clubs, a new club baseball facility, a slowpitch softball tournament site and a dedicated fastpitch diamond are at the heart of the plans that BSUK will deliver between April 2011 and March 2013, based on a Facilities Strategy due to be published shortly.

The new facilities will be part-funded by the Sport England grant, but also by match funding secured from local, national and international sources, including an application to the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, run by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association. Clubs applying for grants will be required to demonstrate that they are able to match pound-for-pound any grant funding awarded. For more information on what constitutes match funding, please see this document.

Here are some details on what the funding should provide:


Club Grants

BSUK will introduce a Small Grants Scheme for investment in upgrading and enhancing club facilities across the country. Starting with the recognition that the baseball and softball facilities used week in and week out by teams and leagues are on the whole below par, the scheme can be used to pay for items such as backstops, infield improvements, dugouts, batting cages and bleacher seating.

BSUK is currently in discussion with Sport England about an effective approach to inviting and assessing applications for club grants. BSUK is also working with Sport England to identify alternative additional funding sources for club grants, including developing a single application process for facility development funds that can go either to the BSUK or Sport England Small Grants Scheme.

Baseball clubs or softball leagues wishing to prepare for a facility grant should speak with their Point Person on BSUK staff or contact Brendan Cunliffe.


Baseball Facility

Plans are being drawn up to build a club baseball facility in the Thames Valley that will have one "show diamond" and a second quality baseball field. It is intended that the quality of this facility will be on par with good club facilities across Europe.

British Baseball Federation President Mark Salter said: "I welcome these plans to build a quality baseball facility in the UK. The poor quality of fields in this country has become a barrier to us taking our rightful place among other active baseball communities in Europe.

"The facility planned will enable us to finally take our share of responsibility for hosting European club competitions and bring high-quality baseball play to our shores. It will also be extremely useful to the baseball community in the UK to have a top facility that can be used for local, regional and national play."

BaseballSoftballUK Joint CEO and Head of Development John Boyd said: "Although our plans are just beginning to take shape, the funds we will receive should be sufficient to achieve them. There is a sense of needing to cut our cloth accordingly, but I'm confident that there will be enough funds in place to lay the foundations for some very good facilities. It's also significant that we will be able to use the available funds to develop baseball, slowpitch and fastpitch diamonds, while also maintaining financial support for enhancing club facilities across the country."


Softball Tournament Site

Discussions are well underway with South Bucks District Council to provide dedicated softball fields at Farnham Park near Slough, currently the most-used tournament facility in the UK for slowpitch softball as the home of the Diamond Series and a number of other tournaments.

Current plans are to build one show pitch and two other fields that can be used for softball tournaments in addition to the current provision of grass softball fields on site.

British Softball Federation President Stella Ackrell said: "Over the past few years, there's been a marked improvement in facilities offered by tournaments. Fences and backstops have become more and more common. The change in outlook towards playing on more suitable and appropriate facilities has been led by the Pioneers Tournament, the BSUK Tournament, the National Softball League and the Diamond Series. With permanent and dedicated fields available on our most used tournament site, the community will benefit greatly."

The softball diamonds at Farnham Park are also intended to host the London Fastpitch Softball League and the long-term intention is that they will be of sufficient quality to host European fastpitch club competitions.


Baseball in the North

Before it became evident that cuts would be applied to the originally-granted "in-principle" capital funding from Sport England, plans included building a club baseball facility in the North.

However, following open consultation with clubs in the North, a decision was made to move these plans into the second phase of development under the Facilities Strategy, to take place between 2013 and 2017.

"It was a tough decision to take," John Boyd said. "I have written to Northern baseball clubs to outline the reasons for arriving at this decision, helped by initial feedback that club-specific grants would achieve more in the North. It's important that Northern clubs are treated as a priority within the awarding of club grants and I hope that we will be in a position to improve four or five club fields in the North through these grants."

A number of Northern clubs have written to BSUK to support these plans and to welcome the prioritisation of club-specific grants for Northern clubs.


Baseball and Softball Facilities Strategy

The comprehensive Baseball and Softball Facilities Strategy, well over a year in preparation, has now completed its final stage of open consultation. A wide range of people, from clubs, leagues, the British Baseball and Softball Federation Boards, European and International Federations, County Sports Partnerships, Sport England and Local Authorities were all approached to comment on the final draft of the Strategy before it is published in spring 2011.

"This Strategy will provide extremely valuable guidance to and advocacy for the development of baseball and softball facilities for the next six years," said John Boyd. "I'm extremely grateful to the many people who have been closely involved in creating this Strategy. Our plans have now been clearly laid out and they provide a clear pathway towards the creation and improvement of facilities for our sports."

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