LAC LA BICHE - After months of location change-ups, the baseball diamond inventory in the Lac La Biche hamlet appears to be rounding third and heading for home — with home being the Bold Center Sports Fields, says the community's recreation boss.
Lac La Biche County's Associate CAO of Recreation and Community Services Darrell Lessmeister says that once the dust — or more appropriately, shale — has settled, the three new ball diamonds at the Bold Center Sports Fields, along with new batting cages currently being installed, will replace everything that has been removed in recent years from the Lac La Biche Recreation Grounds at McArthur Park.
"There was always the plan to move the ball diamonds up here," said Lessmeister from his office inside the Bold Center.
Since the Bold Center was first built in 2010 and plans for the adjacent sports fields took shape, the idea was to utilize the space for active sports, he said.
"Even before I was here, there was a transition to move; the arena was moved up here, and the curling rink was moved up here. It was always a plan to have the swimming pool up here. There was always a plan to move the ball diamonds up here," he said. "All those active facilities no longer fit the downtown area anymore, it wasn't' big enough and it didn't fit."
At one time, the downtown Recreation Grounds housed three ball diamonds. One was removed about a decade ago, making way for a beach volleyball court and green-space. The remaining diamonds were earmarked for removal in the five, now-three-year McArthur Park renovation plan that will see the downtown recreation area turned into a more leisure-based location, complete with walking paths, a community gathering space, beach upgrades, a skate-park and bike track. The McArthur Park update has a budget of $7.3 million, and is expected to be completed by late 2025. A campaign to keep at least one ball diamond in the new McArthur Park plan, apparently struck-out last week as the last of the shale and fencing was removed from the long-serving downtown location. The materials — fencing, infield shale, and the dugouts are being re-used, thanks to an agreement between Lac La Biche Biche County and Goodfish Lake.
At the same time the two diamonds were being removed, municipal crews have begun work on two existing diamonds at the Aurora Middle School playing fields. The upgrades to those fields has been paused briefly, however, as municipal officials await the arrival of new shale for the infield areas.
New batting cages
When the fences and the infields of the two baseball diamonds in the Lac La Biche Recreation Grounds were taken apart, the batting cage and ball-machine also disappeared. Lac La Biche Minor Ball Association members say the ball machine belongs to the association and they removed it.
Association members say they have yet to learn if the machine will go to the new batting cages, or if the municipality plans to buy new equipment.