By Cole Parkinson
While the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball Jets continue to adapt to Alberta pandemic restrictions, the group was ready to get out in front of the upcoming expiring contract for renting out the Vauxhall Community Hall.
In a delegation at Vauxhall town council’s regular May 3 meeting, Vauxhall High School principal Todd Ojala, vice-principal Scott Reiling and VAB head coach Les McTavish were virtually in council chambers to update council on the organization’s past year.
“We first wanted to thank you, and we sent you some thank you letters, so hopefully you had the chance to look at that in regard to the bylaw and waiving the 20 per cent extra charge for the community hall. So on behalf of the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball, I wanted to thank council for doing that,” started Ojala. “The second part — the community hall agreement has expired and so there should be a letter for extending and renewing that contract for the next three years. As council is aware, without the partnership we have with town council and the Town of Vauxhall, we wouldn’t be able to run our program.”
With the pandemic negatively affecting the large majority of the population, Ojala detailed how they’ve been able to adapt to the situation to make it as positive as they can for everyone at VHS.
“It has been a bit of a rough year with COVID but it’s been that way for everyone. Within the walls of the school, there have been changes and a lot of different things going on but as we move forward, we’ve tried to maintain the integrity of the program. With the town’s help, we were able to still (operate). When we were shut down last March, all the boys were sent home and there were quite a few tears that day. As we got to restart here in September, and eventually move into the winter season where we use the hall, we were grateful for that support and we’d like to continue that relationship. Without it, we’d be lost.”
With the academy bringing in new students to the school, Ojala explained how those additions to the school benefit not only the high school but the entire Vauxhall community.
“(The academy) adds roughly 26 extra kids to the school. That helps us maintain programs and support the school and the students. The enrolment projection for next year is 106 students. When I first started at Vauxhall High School, our enrolment was probably about 280, so we’re grateful for the town’s support,” he said. “We want to do our part, too. So, I mentioned 26 voluntolds so if there is a project you guys need done or the park needs help being cleaned up, or something we can do, we want to make sure we do that. If there are grants or other different things for the community, we want to make sure we put our efforts towards those goals.”
While VAB has attended different meetings over the years whether it be the Municipal District of Taber, Horizon School board of trustees or Vauxhall town council, the group is moving forward with the idea of annual visits to inform these councils of what they are working on.
“Over the years, I have gone and spoke to the M.D. council and I do think it is important that we do a better job moving forward of getting on a Zoom call or to join council when we get back to normal. I think communication is always important,” said McTavish. “Cris (Burns, CAO) and I have a pretty good working relationship and there’s been things at the hall that we could have done better and sometimes we don’t know about them. I think if we make a point of annually coming to talk to council, it helps everybody. Maybe there are some things we can do better or maybe there are things we’re doing really well and people just want to say ‘ hey, good job.’ I think it’s important to come to speak to council moving forward.”
While the group has moved outdoors for the spring, McTavish also detailed why the hall has been so beneficial for VAB. He joked that some of the new players have yet to experience the work needed when the hall is used for events during a normal year.
“The only thing I regret this year is when we put up the batting cage, we had half or a quarter of the hall, none of these new guys really know what it’s like to take it up and down, up and down,” he said with a chuckle. “So we kind of left it up during the renovations so these new kids need to learn how much work, time and effort it takes to put the baseball stuff up and down when there are other events going on.”
While VAB was looking for a three-year extension for renting out the hall, a question came from council around VAB’s own facility, which had been discussed in the past.
“We were getting close right before COVID hit. We were actually relying on a company being sold and it was being sold to a U.S. partner and it never got sold, and it’s still not sold, so everything went on hold. I do think things happen for a reason because if we were sitting in a $1 or $2 million facility, we would be in a really tough spot right now,” replied McTavish. “That’s still a goal for our program and something we’d love to work towards, but it was well into the seven figures to build that facility. So if the time is right with fund-raising, but that has been halted pretty quickly.”
Another potential location was the LDS church alongside Highway 36 but that didn’t pan out.
“That was also a plan to maybe use that and build onto it towards the highway. That never worked out so the plan is there, but like Les said, our plan has been halted. It could take a few years to recover from COVID and start back on our way,” said Ojala.
Council made a couple of different suggestions for a new contract, including a three-year contract, a two-year contract or a fee per player.
“What they are asking for is $2,500 and they said 26 players so that’s about $100 per player, per year. If they have great success and their numbers go up, they’ll pay a little more, if it’s a little worse, they’ll pay less,” stated Coun. Richard Phillips.
Another suggestion was to add a $2,000 minimum payment and a $100 per player fee. A motion for a three-year contract with $100 per player and a minimum of $2,000 was carried.