Decision on Ball Hall’s future no walk in the park

In his report on whether or not the Committee of the Whole should recommend Council to support the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s funding request, CAO/clerk Brent Kittmer made clear that it was not a question he could answer for them himself. “This is a long term strategic question that Council needs to give consideration to and set the direction for the Town and community,” Kittmer wrote in his report.
There are many other items that require financial attention in the town, not the least of which is a $1.2 million infrastructure deficit for the Town’s roads, storm, water, and wastewater assets. Kittmer also listed a few other items the Town has committed to in its draft 2016 budget and beyond that rival the Hall’s $550,000 capital request and $150,000 annual core contribution request: the cost to rehabilitate the Water Street Bridge is $550,000; The Town Hall Bell Tower repairs will cost about $300,000; in the next two years, the Town will need to find a funding source for $156,000 worth of expiring pledges to the PRC; over the next 10 years, rehabilitation to the Mill Race Island and Dam will run the Town approximately $666,000; replacing the Wellington Street Bridge will cost $1.8 million. Obviously, the Town of St. Marys has only so much capital to throw around.
No doubt, a lot of those items are very integral to day-to-day business in the town continuing as usual. But, as nice as it is, how many national news updates are going to feature a piece on the renovation of St. Marys’ Town Hall Bell Tower? What tourists are going to drive through the night from Montreal to come to St. Marys to check out the Mill Race Island?
The Hall of Fame, even in the form it is now, lends a prestige and relevance to St. Marys none of those other projects can even come close to matching – not even the Water Street Bridge. The Hall, as it could be, could make St. Marys as synonymous with baseball in Canada as Cooperstown is in the United States; it could become a major destination and maybe even a real moneymaker for local businesses. But that kind of distinction doesn’t come cheap.
Something to think about…