Watch above: What happens to the CNE baseball tournament after the Raptors practice facility is built? Mark Carcasole reports.
TORONTO – The million dollar parking lot that will surround the proposed Toronto Raptors practice facility might spell big changes for one of the longest running attractions at the Canadian National Exhibition: the Lions Peewee Baseball Tournament.
The tournament has been running annually for 58 years and features teams of 12 and 13 year olds from across Toronto and southern Ontario over the nine day tournament.
Peter Stille heads the baseball committee at the CNE and said former players frequently come back to bask in the nostalgia of the baseball diamond.
The Raptors practice facility and the tournament are in the hands of city council which will vote on the motion Monday.
The city’s executive committee recently agreed to pay $1 million for the parking lot and allow the Raptors to construct a $30 million practice facility, for which they’d pay rent to the city, on the property.
If the city does choose to pave over the baseball diamond, organizers say they have no intention of stopping.
“We understand that in two years time, the city has committed to providing us with a ball park. It won’t be here because this will be part of the parking complex for the raptors practice facility,” Stille said. “I don’t think we’re looking to say it’s over, 58 was it, I don’t think we’re prepared to do that.”
But where the ballpark will find its new home is still up in the air. Dana McKiel, a sportscaster who has played, coached and help administer the tournament suggested the old Exhibition Place arena near BMO Field or Coronation Park just east of the CNE grounds.
President and CEO of MLSE Tim Leiweke said in an interview Friday that he is committed to finding a place for the tournament and suggested the Exhibition Place staff have told him they’re able to accommodate moving the tournament.
“We can’t ultimately look past it and we have to honour 60 years worth of tradition, but they do have ball fields, so this tournament’s not going away and we will make sure that at the end of the day it has a place to go to,” Leiweke said.
– With files from Mark McAllister