Serauxmen Stadium From the Beginning
Baseball was played in the Harbour City before the 1950s, but in 1956, the Nanaimo Minor Baseball Association came into existence. Back then, it was called the Nanaimo and District Baseball Association.
In 1972, the association signed an agreement with the school district to build a baseball field on the old mine site behind Nanaimo District Secondary School. The mine, which operated between 1919 and 1930, employed up to almost 300 miners at its peak.
Bert Lansdell, who held various positions with the association, was instrumental in both the agreement with the school district and fundraising for the ball field.
First the coal slag was removed, then the association graded the site, installed drainage and a sprinkler system, and applied topsoil before the grass was planted.
The Serauxmen Club of Nanaimo came forward as a major fundraiser for the stadium and field.
In 1974, the grass and fencing was finished, then in 1975 the stadium building was built – more than $300,000 worth of concrete was required to pour the stadium.
Serauxmen Stadium officially opened July 31, 1976 in a ceremony that included retired New York Yankees player Mickey Mantle and retired Boston Red Sox player Jim Piersall. Hockey players Johnny Bucyk (Boston Bruins) and Chris Oddleifson (Vancouver Canucks), football player George Reed (Saskatchewan Roughriders) and NHL referee Lloyd Gilmour also attended.
In 1980, the south bleacher addition was built.
The stadium is run on funds raised by Nanaimo Minor Baseball Association.
*Source: Patricia Huggins and Bob Baldwin, with information from the Lansdell family.
Service club started in a bar celebrates 50 years of charitable work
It all started over beer at Nanaimo’s Tally Ho Hotel during Canada’s Centennial year, a half-century ago.
This week, the local service club created in the bar that night is being recognized by the City of Nanaimo, which has declared Oct. 2 to 6 as Serauxmen Week, and by the B.C. legislature, where a dozen past and present members of the Serauxmen Club will be introduced.
The honours for the small service club — it has 38 active members — are in recognition for the club’s charitable work and the many lives its members have touched over the past five decades.
Duane Bodeker, a founding member and past-president of the Serauxmen, says that after work one hot afternoon in 1967, a group of friends barely old enough to drink met in the bar.
Talk turned to how members of established service clubs — the Lions, Kiwanis, Gyro and Jaycees — had approached some of the group to join.
“The underlying sentiment that flowed through the table was that we felt we were too young to join the more established service groups,” said Bodeker, who was well known in Nanaimo as the morning host on CHUB Radio.
“But we all strongly felt we still wanted to do something for those less fortunate.”
So they formed their own service club and invented a name based on three Latin words and enhanced by literary licence. To this day, the Nanaimo club is the only Serauxmen Club in the world.
Their first Serauxmen fundraiser, a car wash in the Tally Ho parking lot, raised $147.
In the half-century since, the club has raised more than $2 million through fishing derbies, bingos, sports dinners, dances and golf tournaments. The Serauxmen ran the King Neptune Dance, an annual event the Friday before the annual bathtub race.
These days, the club hosts beer and burger nights, a sports celebrity dinner, bartending services for special events and, every September, a golf tournament, their biggest fundraiser of the year. Their next event is a Halloween Party and Masquerade Ball on Oct. 28.
Last year, their efforts raised more than $30,000 for the community.
The Serauxmen have helped children, families, charitable organizations, non-profits and sports organizations and others in need around Nanaimo.
An example is the Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization, a non-profit that supports children, ages 21Ú2 to 19 years old, who face neurological disabilities such as Downs syndrome, autism and fetal alcohol syndrome.
“Their continued support is huge for us,” said Teresa Nielsen, its executive director. “We are solely dependent on donations to run our programs.
“The funds from the Serauxmen Club allow us to send these kids to a special summer camp, where they can be kids. Due to their conditions, they would not be successful in a regular summer camp.”
The club’s biggest and most visible achievement came in 1976, with the completion of Serauxmen Stadium and field on the site of a former coal mine behind Nanaimo District Secondary School. The mine had closed in 1930.
The club helped raise several million dollars for the cause, securing contributions from different levels of government and help from Nanaimo Minor League Baseball.
It took a couple of years to see the dream become a reality, and members of the club worked behind the scenes to make it all come together.
“We were a bunch of guys who knew a bunch of guys who could get things done,” said Bodeker, who was active in the club for 25 years.
“We, as well as many volunteers, worked countless hours in a number of areas to save a lot of money — and get the project done.”
To create the baseball field, the group removed coal slag, graded the site, installed drainage and a sprinkler system, added topsoil and planted grass.
The stadium was opened on Saturday, July 31, 1976, with the help of baseball legend Mickey Mantle and retired Boston Red Sox player Jim Piersall.
Hockey players Johnny Bucyk (Boston Bruins), Chris Oddleifson (Vancouver Canucks) and Mel Bridgman (Philadelphia Flyers), football player George Reed (Saskatchewan Roughriders) and NHL referee Lloyd Gilmour were also on hand to open the venue.
It is still considered one of the finest baseball stadiums in British Columbia.
Groups helped by the Serauxmen in recent years include the Nanaimo Boys and Girls Club, Royal Canadian Legion, Child Development Centre, Literacy Nanaimo, Vancouver Island Festival Society, Haven House, Nanaimo Search and Rescue, Nanaimo Tsunami Wheelchair Basketball Association, Island Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Habit for Humanity, Respite Care Unlimited, Upper Island Music Festival, Children’s Literacy Foundation, Nanaimo School District Bursaries.
“We also try to help those who fall between the cracks in society,” said Chris Briggs, past-president of the club.
“We support families that have fallen on hard times with food purchases or looking after their gas bills.”
Individual help may include purchasing a videoscope to help a legally blind individual, a bed and commode for a young paraplegic father, assistance in purchasing a van for a disabled individual or acquiring specialized bicycles for children with disabilities.
The Serauxmen work with groups such as the Variety Club to co-sponsor children with special needs or partner with social workers to identify members in the community who are in need.
The membership of the club has changed many times over the years.
The original members are in their 70s now and moved on from the Serauxmen years ago. Current members did not know about this year’s anniversary until one of the founding members — Bob Plecas of Victoria, the club’s first president — dropped in to talk about its history.
Bodeker, who still lives in Nanaimo, remembers the excitement of the club’s early days.
“We were so young, but it was a lot of fun,” said Bodeker, now 72 years old.
“There were lots of nights out for ‘executive-meetings,’ often with a glass of beer.”
The group meets twice a month, every second and last Monday, at the Nanaimo Minor Hockey Association office, 750 Third St., Nanaimo.
For more information, go to serauxmen.com.