Last Wednesday what may be a first for Yorkton, and certainly a first in many years, an organized cricket game was held with the public invited to take it in as fans.
The crowd, in what is sadly true Yorkton fashion, was sparse.
That is unfortunate on a number of levels, and raises some interesting questions for the community as a whole, but more on that in a moment.
To start this discussion it should be noted those who stayed home in droves that evening missed a chance to get involved at least in some small way, with the changing ethnic mix of our community.
Almost to a man every play on both sides of the wicket were recent immigrants to both Canada and to Yorkton.
That is one of the great aspects of our nations, how we open our borders to new Canadians and then embrace aspects of their culture. Cricket is not going to replace hockey, or even baseball in this country, but for many new Canadians it is as much part of their culture as street and pond hockey is to long-time Canadians.
But back to the sparse crowd.
It is an endemic situation in Yorkton that repeats itself at event after event even though the city’s population has grown significantly over the past decade.
As a community we need look no farther than the Yorkton Terriers. In a hockey-centric country such as Canada we would expect the local Junior hockey team to be the heart of the community, at least in terms of sports entertainment, and while it is, crowds are not what they were five years ago.
The product on the ice cannot be better, having repeatedly challenged for the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League title in recent years, and winning the crown this spring, but on many nights crowds have dropped below the 1,000 mark.
It is the same generally across the prairies, and the low fan support is starting to be mimicked by lower player participation too.
Yorkton This Week received a call earlier this year from the local horseshoe club looking for players, which have been in decline in recent years.
Horseshoes was once something most everyone did. It is a reasonably priced sport activity, and easy to learn, yet numbers are low.
Our newspaper also recently wrote of the apparent demise of Junior lacrosse in the city. The sport—which once saw multiple field teams, then went through a Renaissance with the unexpected birth and growth in box lacrosse—now seems to have disappeared.
A rugby team came and went.
Baseball numbers fluctuate and this year no Midget team was fielded in the city and the Western Major Baseball League Cardinals struggled for fans.
Even slow-pitch numbers have tumbled.
The declining numbers on the fields and in the stands make it difficult for the City to plan.
As one City official noted recently in conversation it’s hard to justify investing in raised bleachers at Jubilee Park when fan numbers are so low.
That’s difficult logic to argue with.
But then the same argument might be made about investing in a proper cricket pitch. Will the sport flourish, or be the next lacrosse, or rugby?
Certainly a municipality needs to support sport and recreation with facilities, but how much support moving forward is justified as people stay home watching television rather than competing or supporting sport as fans?
That is a question future Councils will need to find an answer for.