A rise in complaints related to softball games at Spruce Grove Park could spell big changes for the Whistler Slo Pitch Association (WSPA) ahead of the 2017 season.
Concerns over noise levels, particularly during late-night games, have prompted a meeting between the league and the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) that is set for next month.
"The RMOW has received complaints from some Spruce Grove residents about noise associated with Spruce Grove Park activities. As a result, the slo-pitch league has worked with the RMOW to mitigate noise, and reduce the number of games occurring past 10 p.m.," read an emailed response to Pique from the municipality. "We will follow our typical practice and review this past season's field booking prior to considering field bookings for 2017. Whistler Slo Pitch is aware of this process." The RMOW confirmed Bylaw Services received complaints on 15 nights of the 90-night season, including multiple complaints on some nights.
In a follow-up interview, Acting Mayor Jen Ford said beyond noise, the RMOW heard complaints related to light pollution, loitering and "cars leaving en masse after 10 p.m."
League convener Jill Gotto said there has been a significant uptick in complaints this season compared to the previous five years, when she said the league received only about five complaints in all. The RMOW, however, said it received six written complaints at the end of the 2015 season.
"We're not entirely sure where the breakdown is, because when bylaw met with the upset party, they said they stopped complaining (in previous years) because they felt they weren't being heard," said Gotto, who, while acknowledging the difficulty of managing a 900-person league that plays six nights a week, still doesn't feel the number of complaints is warranted.
"If there is cheering and that is upsetting to someone, I don't feel we should ban the cheering. I don't want (Spruce Grove residents) to be upset, but you did move in next to a ballpark. It's (three) months of the year when there's cheering," she said. "It's hard. It's a hard position to be in."
This season's games ended at around 10:30 p.m. three nights a week. There were also a handful of additional Thursday nights when games ended at 9:15 p.m.
In April, the RMOW asked the league to end all games before 10 p.m., but with only a month before the season began, Gotto said there wasn't enough time to completely reorganize the schedule.
Depending on what is decided at next month's meeting, Gotto said the league may have to consider scheduling games earlier, cutting back on the number of players or even relocating to Meadow Park.
"But (Meadow Park) has a kids' water park on one side and a building on the other, and it's a much smaller field, so we're worried about the home runs landing in the water park or smashing windows in the buildings, unless some fencing is built," she explained. "I'm just waiting to see how all this plays out."
In the end, Ford is hopeful a solution can be found that will satisfy all parties.
"That association has been around for a really long time and has built a long-standing existence that is really important," she said. "We definitely want to work with them to find a happy medium between the neighbourhood's needs and the association's needs."