Mayor Sly James, Royals general manager Dayton Moore and other city, Royals and Major League Baseball officials broke ground Wednesday on the Kansas City MLB Urban Youth Academy at Parade Park.
“It’s been a lot of work, by a lot of people, and I’m just glad to be a part of it,” Moore said of participating in the groundbreaking.
The first of the $14 million project’s two phases — consisting of three baseball fields and one softball field, a walking trail, relocated basketball courts, relocated and renovated tennis courts and a relocated playground near the community center — is scheduled to open this fall.
Construction of the first phase is funded by $2,052,000 from the city’s capital improvements sales tax, $2 million from the state, $2 million from the Major League Baseball Urban Youth foundation and $1 million from the MLB Players Association. According to City Manager Troy Schulte, the state money is expected to be spent before July on field preparation and underground utility work.
Private fundraising continues on the second stage, which could be complete by the summer of 2017. Royals catcher Salvador Perez gave $1 million, outfielder Alex Gordon gave $750,000 and pitcher Chris Young also donated to the project. Proceeds from the Relay the Way opening-day first pitch also went to the project.
The second phase will include an indoor facility with a turf infield, batting cages, pitching mounds, restrooms, concession facilities, an event space and additional parking.
Kansas City-based Populous and JE Dunn are the lead architect and contractor for the academy, whose goal is to have about 1,000 kids ages 6-18 participating in free baseball, softball, educational and vocational programs. The Royals will pay for the operation of the academy. Other cities with MLB academies are Cincinnati; Compton, Calif.; Houston; New Orleans; Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; Dallas; and San Francisco.
“We’ve always wanted to try to grow the game,” Moore said. “And truthfully, I think it’s the obligation of every major-league team to make sure the community has a great experience with the game of baseball.”
Young, Gordon and former Royals great George Brett took part in Wednesday’s ceremony.
The Star’s Rustin Dodd contributed to this report