Friday, July 5, 2013

$5M MLB Urban Youth Academy, first in Midwest, breaks ground in Roselawn

Major League Baseball's (MLB) first urban youth baseball academy in the Midwest broke ground Tuesday morning at Roselawn Park.

"This had to be one of the most significant days away from the ballpark that I've ever had," said Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman, who emceed the event.

The state-of-the-art, $5 million P&G Cincinnati MLB Urban Youth Academy will provide year-round baseball and softball instruction to boys and girls from ages eight to 18. The four fields will be upgraded and new concessions and restroom facilities will be added as part of the project's first phase, and a second phase will feature a 33,000-square-foot indoor training center that will house batting cages, pitching tunnels, and an indoor field.

Phase 1 will be completed in time for next year's baseball season, and the entire project is scheduled for completion in spring 2015.

"This is a very special moment in Reds history," said Charlie Frank, director of the Reds Community Fund. "This has been years in the making. It's a product of commitment and vision."

In October 2012, Procter & Gamble announced a $2 million commitment to the Reds Community Fund to advance the project, the largest donation in the fund's 11-year history. And in January, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig pledged $1.5 million for the project.

Cincinnati's Urban Youth Academy currently operates at Cincinnati Public Schools' Gamble Montessori School, formerly Clark Montessori School, in Winton Hills.

There's a need for more opportunities for urban youth as local knothole participation continues to drop. According to the National Sporting Goods Association, the number of children between age 7 and 17 playing baseball decreased 33 percent between 2000 and 2011.

Darrell Miller, MLB's vice president of youth and facility development, said that 70 percent of American-born major leaguers come from Division I collegiate baseball programs.

The goal of the Urban Youth Academy is to graduate 100 percent of its athletes and to give them the opportunity to go to college, he said.

"Every child deserves a chance to play baseball, or softball, at the highest level," Miller said. "It's the only game that mimics day-to-day living. You have to show up every day."

Former Reds second baseman and baseball hall of famer Joe Morgan, who also serves as the team's senior director of diversity and strategic initiatives, said that the new academy is the culmination of a vision he's worked toward for more than 15 years.

"One of the reasons I came back [to Cincinnati] is because of this academy," he said. "I left for a long period of time. But I never heart was really here."

The academy will join facilities located in Compton, Cal.; Houston; New Orleans; and Puerto Rico. Additional sites have been announced for the Miami suburb of Hialeah, Fla. and Philadelphia.

"For generations, this baseball town has loved its Cincinnati Reds," said Cincinnati Reds Owner Bob Castellini. "This new Urban Youth Academy will prove that the Cincinnati Reds love you back."

On June 26, Cincinnati City Council approved a 31.5-year lease agreement with the Reds Community Fund for $1 a year, with two 10-year options.

"Pro baseball has its home here in Cincinnati," said Mayor Mark Mallory. "It means a lot to us. It's in the fabric of our City. The hearts of Cincinnatians are with the Cincinnati Reds. It means a lot that young people are going to have the opportunity to come here to learn how to play a game that has its roots here in the community."

"What this proves is that it's about more than just baseball with the Cincinnati Reds," said City Manager Milton Dohoney, Jr. "What it is really saying to the young people in the region is that, 'We believe in you.'"

The project was designed by MSA Sport, a division of MSA Architects. Kokosing Construction Company, Inc. is the general contractor.

Previous reading on BC:
Portion of Main Street to become Joe Nuxhall Way (5/20/08)
Harang gives $55,000 for Miracle League project (12/14/07)
Reds, CRC may build youth baseball complex at Oskamp Field (9/20/07)