President's Choice Ajax Pan Am Ballpark Officially Opens

Venue to host all men's and women's baseball, softball games at TORONTO 2015 Pan Am Games

Tickets available September 15; affordably priced from $20 to $35

AJAX, ON, Aug. 29, 2014 /CNW/ - With the help of some of Ontario's best young baseball players, the newly upgraded President's Choice Ajax Pan Am Ballpark officially opened today.

The players, who are taking part this weekend in the 2014 Ajax Invitational, were the first to step out onto the field where history will be made in July 2015 when the first female baseball players swing for gold as the sport makes its international multi-sport Games debut.

The venue will also host men's baseball and men's and women's softball — all part of the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am Games.

"Ajax loves baseball and softball — and in less than a year this town will welcome some of the best teams in the world to this wonderful ballpark that has been upgraded for the Games and as a legacy to the community," said Saäd Rafi, chief executive officer of the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games Organizing Committee (TO2015).

"The atmosphere here will be thrilling as Canada looks to defend its first-ever Pan Am title in men's baseball and best of all, we've priced our tickets to be affordable for families so it will be possible to take everyone out to the ball game next summer!"

Tickets for the Pan Am Games, including baseball and softball for $20 to $35, will be available to the public starting at 10 a.m. (ET) on Monday, September 15. For more information, including the Pan Am competition schedule and Ticketing Program Guide, visit TORONTO2015.org/tickets.

"This is a proud moment for Ontario. In less than a year, all eyes will be on Ajax for these popular sports and for this milestone moment in women's baseball. Following the 2015 Games, Ajax will be in a great position to host high-level and house league competitions," said Sophie Kiwala, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister Responsible for the Pan/Parapan American Games. "This newly upgraded venue will continue to be a part of the community fabric, bringing friends and families together and teaching our children teamwork, confidence and character."

The Pan Am men's baseball tournament is considered one of the premier international baseball championships. The men's competition will consist of seven teams, all projected to be ranked within the top 12 teams in the world.

At the last Pan Am Games, the Canadian men's baseball team won its first gold medal after defeating the United States. It is currently ranked seventh in the world by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF).

"This historic event will put the international spotlight on our vibrant and diverse community," said Ajax Mayor Steve Parish. "The Town is excited to welcome up to 125,000 spectators and 448 athletes in 2015, and showcase our unique landscapes, culture, community spirit and history to the world."

The Canadian women's baseball team, which started in 2004 — the same year Canada hosted the inaugural IBAF Women's World Cup in Edmonton — is currently tied for third with Australia in world rankings. The first-ever women's competition will consist of five teams, all projected to be ranked within the top eight teams in the world.

Softball provides two more chances for the home nation to medal. For 24 years, the Canadian men's team dominated softball, winning every Pan Am gold medal ever awarded until the men's competition was dropped from the Games in 2003. On the women's side, Canada took silver in softball at the 2011 Pan Am Games, adding to their previous medal count of one gold, four silver and a bronze.

The ballpark, located next to the Audley Recreation Complex, features a new Games-time baseball diamond and a rebuilt adjacent diamond with new sod and clay to meet the most up-to-date IBAF standards.

Ajax's four "pinwheel" fields, which will host softball training and competitions, also received upgrades to meet International Softball Federation requirements.

The $9-million capital project was jointly funded by the Government of Canada and the Town of Ajax. Construction started in August 2013 and reached substantial completion this month.

"It's great to see the completion of the President's Choice Ajax Pan Am Ballpark facility, where we will see Canada's men's and women's national teams take on the Americas  and Caribbean in 2015," said Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander. "Our Government's contribution to our region's sports facilities will result in a lasting legacy of these Games for athletes and all Canadians, for many years to come."

"As the official grocery retailer of the Games, we are proud to lend our PC name to this great facility," said Uwe Stueckmann, senior vice-president, marketing, Loblaw Companies Limited. "We are similarly proud that PC was called upon to feed and fuel the thousands of athletes and volunteers who will be bringing the Games to life."

The Games couldn't happen without the support and dedication of volunteers. Ajax and the surrounding area will need 2,500 volunteers to bring the Games to life. Volunteer interviews are underway, but many opportunities are still available. Apply today at TORONTO2015.org/volunteer.

The 2014 Ajax Invitational, which is an official TO2015 sport test event for baseball, runs from August 28 to August 31 in the park adjacent to the President's Choice Ajax Pan Am Ballpark. It is one of the more than 40 test events for the Games.

About TO2015
The TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games Organizing Committee (TO2015) is tasked with managing and delivering the Games. It is working to bring some of the world's best athletes and artists to the Greater Golden Horseshoe region, giving Ontarians a unique chance to be part of the action, and making the region a hub for sport.

The TORONTO 2015 Games are funded by the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario, as well as Lead Partner CIBC and other partners and sponsors. The TORONTO 2015 Pan American Games will take place July 10–26 and the Parapan American Games August 7–15.

For more information about the Games, please visit TORONTO2015.org.

SOURCE Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games

For further information: Teddy Katz, Director, media relations and chief spokesperson, TO2015, 416.957.2117, teddy.katz@toronto2015.org