Friends of Labatt Park

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Friends of Labatt Park is a grassroots, non-profit (unincorporated) group of volunteers dedicated to "promoting and enhancing Labatt Park in London, Ontario, Canada, as the world's oldest baseball grounds in continuous use in its original location since 1877."

In this regard, "Friends" has a custodial fund set up with the City of London's treasurer whereby all donations of $25 or more will result in the donor being issued a tax-deductible receipt by the City of London.

Designating Labatt Park an historic site[edit]

The group was first formed in 1993 and was successful in convincing London's city council-of-the-day to designate the municipally owned ball park an historic site under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act in 1994 with a plaque unveiling on Canada Day—a ballpark which dates back to 1877 when it was called Tecumseh Park, before it was donated to the City of London by the Labatt Brewing Company on December 31, 1936.

Amending the park's reasons for designation[edit]

In 1996, the group was also successful in having the "reasons for designation" contained in the designating by-law of Labatt Park amended to include the circa 1937, cottage-style clubhouse of the London Majors (Roy McKay Clubhouse) of the Intercounty Baseball League.

Norm Aldridge at Labatt Park in May 1998 during the fundraising ballgame, The Rumble at the Riverforks. Aldridge, trainer with the 1948 London Majors, also has a baseball diamond named after him in northeast London, Ontario -- Norm Aldridge Field.
London Majors' SS Mike Ambrose (left; a third-generation London Major) and first-team-all-star Kyle Piwowarczyk (2B) at the historic Roy McKay Clubhouse at Labatt Park on Canada Day 2006, when "The Friends" opened the clubhouse to the public to view historical baseball displays.

Since that time, the group has helped to raise money for a new cedar-shingle roof on the Roy McKay Clubhouse (via a fundraising ballgame on May 31, 1998, dubbed "The Rumble at the Riverforks"), facilitated the mounting of eight history-related plaques at the stadium, the planting of five indigenous trees and assisted in organizing numerous events at the park, including five annual Doors Open events, vintage base ball games and other special events where the "Friends" display historical photos and other memorabilia related to the ballpark.

The "Friends" have also issued numerous media releases over the years, as well as liaising with the local, regional, national and international media about the history of the ballpark and its activities.

In 2006, the "Friends" were responsible for the inclusion of Labatt Park in a 16-month calendar published by American transportation carrier, Roadway Express, entitled "Times of Greatness 2007 calendar" featuring sites important to the history of the Negro Leagues. Labatt Park is the only Canadian site featured in the calendar which has a print run of 150,000.

Intercounty Baseball Hall of Fame[edit]

In June 2006, the Intercounty Baseball League (IBL) unanimously endorsed establishing an IBL Hall of Fame at Labatt Park. The Friends of Labatt Park are assisting in this proposed initiative, which remains in the early stages of development.

On September 7, 2011, Baseball Canada announced that historic Labatt Memorial Park in London, Ontario, had won its six-week-long, favourite ballpark contest, winning the final round where it went head-to-head with Port Arthur Stadium in Thunder Bay, Ontario. During the two-week-long, final round of online voting, where more than 19,000 votes were cast, Labatt Park won with 63 per cent of the vote.

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