Baseball players from across the country are expected to step up to the plate in central Alberta next summer when the Red Deer Riggers host the 2021 Men’s AAA National Championship.
Red Deer city council unanimously approved $25,000 of support toward the event that was successfully bid upon by the Riggers.
“Here’s an opportunity, a sign of hope, in the midst of what we can call the ‘COVID curse,’” said Coun. Ken Johnston.
He added the national championship, anticipated to run from next Aug. 25 to 29 on city sports fields, “is a chance to shake some hands, make some friends, and play ball.”
The last time Red Deer hosted the men’s nationals was in 1994 and 1987. But the city has also held the 2019 Midget AAA Westerns and the 2016 Women’s Nationals.
Next summer’s event is expected to draw between 500 to 1,000 spectators for each of its 24 games. The participating athletes will number 250, as there will be 10 competing teams of 25 players each.
City council was told the host community can expect a $170,000 economic boost from the national championship.
Several Red Deer city councillors praised the event, saying it will help raise the city’s sporting profile and build on its goal of becoming a national and international destination.
Coun. Lawrence Lee favoured Red Deer continuing to spur local volunteerism, last exemplified during the 2019 Canadian Winter Games.
Coun. Buck Buchanan felt the $25,000 request from the Riggers was modest, while Coun. Vesna Higham said it was worthwhile to stimulate economic activity.
The $25,000 will come out of a $425,000 fund that was created earlier this year by the municipality for fuelling sport and event hosting and outgoing sponsorships.
Only two previous events made requests from this fund: the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and 2020 Canadian Finals Rodeo — and both were cancelled due to COVID-19.
But no questions were raised about whether pandemic measures could continue to cause postponements and disruptions a year from now.