Organizers of the Canadian Native Fastball Championship are planning to bring the event back to Prince George this summer.
The 46th annual tournament is set to run July 29 to July 31, and is expected to draw roughly 80 teams – about 1,200 athletes – to compete, organizing committee chairperson Harley Desjarlais said during a presentation to city council on Monday. Prince George was supposed to host the tournament in 2020 and then again in 2021, but both years the event was cancelled because of COVID-19 safety returns.
“I don’t think anybody around the table can guess what the COVID restrictions are going to be. We’re hoping it is summer time and we’ll be able to have a full event, but who knows?” Desjarlais said.
The timing of the tournament puts it starting only days after the 2022 B.C. Summer Games, running July 21-24, have ended. The short time frame means that there won’t be time to convert Citizen Field for the fastball championship, so the tournament will be using other baseball diamonds in the city.
“We are planning for a full event this year, and I think we have to plan as such,” Desjarlais said. “We’re going to be right slammed up against the (2022 B.C.) Summer Games, and there is a not a lot of time for the people in the parks department to change over some of the facilities that are needed. (But) we’re also very proud that our community is hosting the summer games and we’re going to do whatever we can to accommodate as well.”
In 2020, city council approved a grant of $48,133 to support the event in the form of waived fees and funding for improved backstops and fencing. Both of those costs have increased since 2020, he said.
Desjarlais asked for, and received, city council approved increase that grant to up to $81,435. The main reason for the increase was the cost of the backstop and fencing more than doubled in the intervening years.
“Your support means a lot to us. Just understanding the value of this for our community,” Desjarlais said. “This is a very big event for the aboriginal community in Prince George. It is a big fastball tournament, but we have a lot of Indigenous people coming from across Western Canada who gather for this event. As well as a big recreation event, we’re also hosting a cultural event…”
The event has a total budget of $247,133 and is expected to generate roughly $3 million in economic activity, according to an analysis by Tourism Prince George.
“It’s a positive impact for our local economy and the legacy of fastball in Prince George,” Carmen Herman of Tourism Prince George said. “There will also be a significant number of out-of-town visitors attending, which helps amplify the tourism impact.”
The portable backstop and fence will remain in the city, following the tournament, which will allow the city’s ball fields to be resized for future events, she added
Prince George previously hosted the tournament in 1994, 2004 and 2016. The event is being hosted by volunteers from four local teams taking part in the tournament.