For this project, the Urban Youth Academy in Kansas City, a $1 million donation from Royals catcher Salvador Perez doesn’t seem like a huge chunk.
“When you know it’s going to be for something you really want, and you know how many kids are going to be there and how many faces you’re going to make happy, it doesn’t seem like a million dollars,” Perez said. “It seems different.”
The donation from Perez, who agreed to a five-year, $52.5 million contract extension Tuesday, will help fund the academy in Parade Park between Truman Road and 17th Terrace, and the Paseo and Woodland Avenue. It’s expected to open in the summer of 2017.
Royals outfielder Alex Gordon and pitcher Chris Young also joined Perez in donating to the project, giving undisclosed amounts.
Perez said he happily agreed to the donation when he came to terms on his contract.
“One hundred percent yes, I wanted to do it,” Perez said.
The project, spearheaded by Royals general manager Dayton Moore, was introduced last September and is geared to young people ages 6 to 18.
The Royals will run the baseball academy and cover the projected annual operating costs of $500,000. Moore has called it “as important as anything we do.”
The City Council’s finance committee on Wednesday endorsed $2,052,000 in city funds for the park. The city capital improvements sales tax money would supplement $2 million from the state, $2 million from the Major League Baseball Urban Youth foundation and $1 million from the MLB Players Association.
The funding will go toward building two major-league-size baseball fields, one college-size softball field and one Little League field. Other improvements include a new walking trail around Parade Park and improved basketball and tennis courts and playground.
One of the fields will be named for Perez.
“A lot of kids will be there on that field,” Perez said. “When they see something like that, it gives them motivation. They love all the (Royals) players.”
The project’s second phase, to be built with about $7 million in private donations, calls for constructing a new facility with indoor batting cages, other training rooms and classrooms for both sports and academic studies. Supporters hope to complete that fundraising by June 30.
“This is one of the best projects that we’ve seen in years,” Mayor Sly James said in describing the initiative to build new urban ball fields, plus an academy that will provide job training and leadership skills to up to 1,000 young people.
While a few other cities around the country have these academies, James and others said they hope Kansas City’s will be the “flagship.”
“It’s going to be great,” Perez said.