Local athletes will soon have a place to practise in the off-season thanks to an investment by Orillia Legion Minor Baseball (OLMB).
The organization recently entered a sublease with a tenant at 53 Jamieson Dr., just south of Orillia city limits in the Forest Home industrial park in Oro-Medonte, and is opening a 4,000-square-foot indoor training facility.
“We felt, as a league, that to continue our growth, we had to have our own space. We’ve grown so much,” OLMB president Wes Winkel said, noting the league has about 500 players and 10 rep teams.
Now they can better prepare to take on teams that have had appropriate training facilities for years.
“Those kids are hitting balls all winter and we have to catch up,” Winkel said.
During the off-season, the OLMB has seen itself jockeying for a coveted spot in school gymnasiums. When its ball players do get in to practise, the venue isn’t ideal. The gym’s ceilings aren’t high enough and there’s no turf.
And then there are the windows.
“We kept getting bills for broken windows,” Winkel said.
There are no windows in the new training facility and the ceilings are suitably high.
The opportunity to acquire the wide-open space came about due to the misfortune of another organization. The Vaughan group’s lease on their indoor facility was not being renewed and it had a lot of stuff to get rid of.
The OLMB got a steal of a deal. With a $5,000 budget, it picked up netting, a pitching machine, a portable mound and enough artificial turf to cover a 110-foot-long area.
The league is a non-profit that is run by volunteers, and it will need to recoup its costs. Winkel doesn’t think that will be a problem. Various sport organizations, including one from Muskoka, have already expressed interest in renting the space. Georgian College and Lakehead University have, too.
“It’s ideal for soccer and lacrosse because it’s turfed and netted,” Winkel said. “It’s good for basically any summer sport.”
It’s long overdue, he added.
“It’s been a big gap for a long time. Going back to the original MURF talks, we’ve been asking for something like his,” he said, referring to the city’s lengthy recreation centre saga. “We believe, long term, it’ll be a revolutionary thing. It will be well used.”
Despite that prediction, it is a risk.
“This is something we’ve stuck our neck out for, but we believe not only is this an expense; this is an investment,” Winkel said.
The work to transform the facility into a training space is being done by volunteers. They have created a washroom as well as an elevated viewing area for visitors.
The goal is to have it open Jan. 15.
Rental rates are still being determined. Inquiries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.