Tsiigehtchic's baseball field, said to be in disrepair, could be transformed into a year-round sports field if the charitable arm of the Toronto Blue Jays gets involved.
As first reported by NNSL, the charter community's economic development officer – Brian Smith – discovered the Jays Care Foundation after reading about its $150,000 grant to build a baseball diamond in Pond Inlet, Nunavut.
Smith said he began to look into how he could get this kind of help for the community's own field. An application to the foundation on Tsiigehtchic's behalf is now through to the second round of consideration.
To put it nicely, Smith said, the field is "horrible."
Contractors did a good job on the field's fencing, he said, but the outfield is in disrepair. "The outfield is like rocks and grooves. Like if you ran for a fly ball, you'd literally be taking your life in your hands."
Kenton Blake, two years old in this photo, waits for a pitch at Tsiigehtchic's field. Photo: Charlene Blake
Smith put in a proposal for the foundation to fund the laying down of turf which will make the field usable year-round. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $130,000 to $140,000.
Smith estimates the Jays would fund 75 percent of the project and the charter community would have enough to cover the rest.
Funding would come from the foundation's Field of Dreams program, which backs sports infrastructure projects across the country. On the foundation's map of its investments, there are dots on every province and territory except the NWT.
For Smith, seeing this, investing in Tsiigehtchic seems an obvious next step.
"This would be the first one they did in Northwest Territories, and then they cover them all," he said.
The Jays Care Foundation's Field of Dreams investments across Canada.
For Tsiigehtchic this would be a crucial investment, Smith said, as the charter community doesn't have a lot of financial resources. Many community members are engaged in traditional activities and, with a high unemployment rate, the potential to raise funds for a project like this is limited.
Smith has now heard that the community was successful in a first round of proposals. By January 31, the community has to put in a second-round application.
This is where the community comes in.
Smith is asking Tsiigehtchic residents to submit videos, photos, stories, and letters of support so the foundation can see how important the grant and field work would be.
If all goes to plan, the laying down of turf could happen this summer. A BC-based company would do the work and local people would be trained to perform repairs, turning the field into what Smith calls a year-round healthy living area.
The field is located between the school and the college. Smith says it could be used for a range of community events including the Elders in Motion program, tournaments, and other healthy living events.
"In most communities, it would be a big thing. But in our community, because we have no other fields – we don't have a hockey rink, we don't have a lot of facilities or anything, we have a gym and that's about it – it would be a gigantic thing to have this healthy living area."
Smith will discuss with councillors if the community can show its appreciation for the Jays, should the project go ahead, by naming the field in the team's honour.