- Associated Press - Sunday, January 29, 2017

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Fundraising is complete for a multimillion dollar Urban Youth Academy near downtown Kansas City that will provide playing fields and other amenities to attract urban boys and girls to baseball and softball.

During a meeting last week, supporters of the academy were told the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball had raised the money needed for the 21-acre complex near Kansas City’s historic 18th and Vine district, The Kansas City Star reported (https://bit.ly/2kFjetl ).

The complex will include two regulation-sized baseball fields and a softball field, a Little League field, a walking trail and seating for hundreds of spectators. It will also have two new basketball courts, renovated tennis courts and a playground.

But the centerpiece will be a building to house a Major League Baseball academy for young people, ages 6 to 18, to learn about baseball and provide an introduction to other sports careers. All classes will be free, with funding from the Royals and other donors. The multipurpose building will house a full-sized infield that will be a replica of the Kauffman Stadium infield. It will offer batting tunnels, batting cages and other training facilities, as well as classrooms and other instructional spaces.

The academy’s goal is to provide free, year-round baseball and softball instruction while hosting tournaments, coach clinics and skill camps. It also plans to offer urban youth access to tutors, college prep classes and other life skills as an alternative to drugs and gang violence.

“It’s exciting to think we’ve gotten there,” Kansas City Councilman Jermaine Reed said of the successful fundraising drive.

Weather permitting, the fields will be completed in September, with the building finished by late October. The project’s costs increased from $14 million to $19 million because of the successful fundraising.

Kansas City’s new urban baseball academy will be one of nine such facilities either operating or in development in the United States.

Darwin Pennye, the newly hired academy director, and will be moving to Kansas City from Texas. He played five seasons in the minor leagues before a career as a coach and athletic director.

While suburban families will be welcomed to use the complex, Reed said discussions are underway about registration options for children from the urban core to get high priority for academy spots. About 800 to 1,000 children are expected to participate in its events on an annual basis.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore has promoted the academy project, and the club will not only run it but will pay the estimated $500,000 annual operating costs. Other money for the construction came from the state, the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Foundation, the MLB Players Association and private donors.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, https://www.kcstar.com

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