Cousins Park

Baseball teams from throughout the Okanagan have long been encouraged to come to Peachland to play at the town's Cousins Park ball diamond, action from which is shown in this file photo. Under public health orders, youth sports teams from elsewhere could declare Peachland their 'home club', with the support of town council.

Penticton ball players would like to declare Peachland as their "home club" so they can keep on playing through the pandemic.

Town officials say the request, to be considered by Peachland council next Tuesday, might yield some economic benefits for Peachland shops and restaurants.

But they're also concerned that virus-wary Peachlanders might balk at having young out-of-towners come to their town on a regular basis to play baseball. "There's a lot of seniors in Peachland," community services director Cheryl Wiebe said Friday in an interview.

"There are pros and cons in letting sports organizations from other communities use Peachland as their home club, so we just thought we should have council weigh in on this," Wiebe said.

Historically, Peachland has invited sports organizations from Enderby through Osoyoos to come to the lakeside town of 5,500 people.

Drawing baseball teams to the town's Beach Avenue ballpark, or having hockey teams use dryland training facilities in the rec centre, is seen both as a form of economic development and as a way to let some young Peachlanders participate in activities they might not otherwise be able to, given the town's small population.

Sometimes, out-of-town teams have trouble accessing sports facilities in their own communities. And some regional teams see Peachland's mid-Valley location as a reasonable driving distance for athletes who may live across the Okanagan.

Under current public health orders, travel for youth sport to and between communities for athletic events like games, competitions, and training sessions is prohibited. However, athletes can travel to their home club if their home club is outside of their designated community.

Acceptable examples of youth sport for travel, listed on the government's website, are a figure skater who lives in Vancouver but who trains at their "home club" in Burnaby, and a soccer player who lives in the Fraser Valley but trains at their "home club" in Vancouver.

If Peachland agrees to be the "home club" for youth sports groups based elsewhere, the players' parents - not being able to attend the games or training sessions because of pandemic precautions - might spend money in the town's shops and restaurants, Wiebe says.

But on the downside, she writes in her report to town council, there are potential concerns about the "regular frequency of out-of-town guests and (the) increased risk of community exposure" to COVID-19, as well as "resident comfort and perception about the District supporting and inviting out-of-town visitors to Peachland".