We had addressed the political side of the equation. Next we held a number of informal meetings at our local pub to pool our resources. Besides beer, we had a number of things in common. We shared the same vision, we were focused and we were committed. Shared values were essential traits if we were going to fulfill our dream. We were pumped, invigorated and willing to sacrifice our time no matter how long it took. And, surprisingly, we all got along. Little did we know at the time just how much commitment and grunt work it was going to take. As it turned out we had an enormous wealth of talent and knowledge within our group. Tom, the master carpenter, had many friends in the trades. Wayne, who managed the local home improvement center, was willing to assume the role of project manager. Peter, a landscape architect volunteered to come up with conceptual drawings and plans; and Len, who practiced civil law, agreed to examine all of the local statutes and governance issues. I was responsible for fund raising and general all round scrounger. But everyone had a role to play – from finances, accounting, and sponsorship, to volunteer coordinator and public awareness. In reality, we had formed a knowledge rich, high performance team – a “community of practice”.
Leadership among us was never an issue. If anything the vision assumed a lifelike presence of its own accord. In essence, an intangible became our leader, our driving force, steering us down a common path. Our “Field of Dreams” had forged a bond between ten individuals, transforming us from a single entity; a group of “I’s , into a collective “We”. In our personal lives at least, the group dynamic that had been created by our collective sense of community and the strength of strong inter-personal relationships had stroked our self awareness and reinforced our sense of well being – of being alive. We were in a process of “becoming” part of a larger picture that instilled a sense of “belonging” to something much bigger than ourselves – the community in which we lived. In essenence what we had was a “Knowledge Base”. We were able to link our individual talents together as we were focused toward one underlying goal – our “Field of Dreams”
Word of our predicament spread quickly around the small community. A casual conversation between Ted, Wayne and an old man sitting beside a cop at a local donut shop revealed that a 10-acre parcel of land adjacent to the airport buffer zone might be available for a sub lease arrangement. It turned out that the land was hardly used. The aircraft landing spooked the Guernsey’s that grazed the fields. They were having great difficulty milking. Our lawyer checked it out. It was a credible arrangement. Ted, with two other councilors sympathetic to our plight, passed a resolution at city hall and a 25 year lease was arranged with the owner. Things were beginning to take on a life of their own. Peter the architect came up with professional drawings based upon the 10 acre parcel of land. Lo and behold our vision of a two diamond facility suddenly became five – enough room to accommodate Little League, a Babe Ruth senior ball park, as well as the girl’s softball. “Go big or go home” as the saying goes – why not. Peter came up with a “hub and spoke” configuration, the centerpiece being a two-story clubhouse, canteen, offices, washrooms and an equipment storage area. Each diamond would branch out from the center. Between the fences, picnic, playground and “Jungle Jim” areas were planned for the families. A batting cage, pitching mounds, trees, bushes etc were all accounted for. Without going into all the dirty details, suffice to say, Wayne’s project management skills became engaged very quickly. His experience as a contractor and his knowledge of the various building suppliers around Victoria, proved invaluable. And the cows started milking again!
Expenses were formidable. Peter knew of a golf course designer who was willing to do all of the grading irrigation and fencing work for us but at a cost of $25,000, plus materials. We knew it wasn’t going to be cheap. Although many of the contractors that were hired used volunteer labour,- us – we were on the hook for all of the materials. These costs were significant. But we applied for and received a Sports BC grant worth over $300,000.
A plan was developed to raise additional cash. At our monthly pub-fests, imagination ran rampant. Booze in moderation can be a wonderful creative stimulant. The ideas that came out of our group were innovative to say the least. We sold singles, doubles, triples and home runs with the promise of having the donator’s statistics permanently posted of the clubhouse wall. That raised about $10,000. We designed and sold advertisement space on the outside fences for $1500 apiece with a five-season exposure contract. Over 105 signs were sold to various small businesses and corporations around the Capital Region District. Bruce, our resident sign maker, charged $250.00 per sign that garnered another $130,000.00. Scoreboard advertising was sold. The Sidney Rotary Club donated $50,000.00 with an agreement that the facility be named “Rotary Park”. Our biggest private donor was Trev Deeley, who owned the Harley Davidson rights for Canada. He gave us $50,000. Unbelievable, with the Sports BC grant, we had raised over $540,000.00.
There were a thousand good ideas and a thousand bad ones. The clubhouse? Well we built it ourselves under the supervision of Tom and other tradesmen. The trade’s programme at Camosun College was approached and they agreed to do all of the plumbing work for us at no cost if we paid for the materials. A retired stonemason, who just happened to be at the site looking around one Saturday afternoon, volunteered to build 10 cinderblock dugouts, if we supplied the blocks. It was that kind of situation. And the playing fields themselves were an enormous challenge. Relentless raking, rock picking, and countless hours of backbreaking work taxed our patience and calloused our hands. But with a bit of humour, beer and a barbeque, we got through it.
Wayne was a busy man. We all were. We had organized an army of volunteers. We generated interest in all the papers and local TV. But we finished it and had our official opening 01 May 1993. Almost three years of work – every weekend, many weeknights. Our spouses were not amused. Over time some of our core members lost interest and bowed out but a small cadre of men and women remained committed. We had many arguments and fights that were fuelled by jealousy and innuendo. Our local “wicked witch of the west”, one of many antagonists, and fuelled by jealousy and spite, tried every trick in the book to scuttle our efforts. Even pulling a full-page ad in the local newspaper alleging fraudulent bookkeeping practices. That alone held us back for a few months. Not to be deterred, the strength lay in our numbers, our confidence and trust in one another and in our commitment to stay on track and on target. There were many pitfalls to overcome and hurdles to jump however collectively we supported each other and forged ahead. In the end we had a first class facility that was rated by Sports BC as one of the best baseball facilities in the province for minor sports. The complex’s value, other than the land, was assessed at over $2.7M. We spent approximately $600,000.00. Success! William Patrick Kinsella, the author of “Shoeless Joe” presented all of us with autographed copies of his book. In 1994, Sports BC, awarded Ted and the team the honour of “Sportsman of the Year”.