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With Major League Baseball's Help, Kansas City Will Get New Youth Sports Complex

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Elle Moxley
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KCUR
Mayor Sly James announces a new Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy for the 18th and Vine District.

Parade Park in Kansas City’s 18th and Vine District will soon be the home of Major League Baseball’s newest Urban Youth Academy.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James announced Friday fundraising for the first phase of the project – which will include two full-size baseball diamonds, two youth fields, a walking trail, a playground, park upgrades and, ultimately, an indoor training facility – is complete. The outdoor fields are slated to open next fall.

Revitalizing the historic jazz district and former site of Municipal Stadium has long been one of James' goals.

The mayor says he remembers meeting with consultants at the beginning of his time in office who told him, “‘You’ve got a great park down there at 18th and Vine,’” says James, “‘but nothing’s really happening. You need to find a way to do more, and if you stimulate that part, you’ll stimulate the district.”

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Credit Elle Moxley / KCUR
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KCUR
Kansas City Mayor Sly James and Major League Baseball officials announced the new Urban Youth Academy for the 18th and Vine District at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

James says he’s particularly excited the Urban Youth Academy will be so close to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, adding that legend Buck O’Neil would be proud.

“It’s not about baseball diamonds,” says James. “It’s about developing kids.”

More than $7 million has already been pledged to the project, with contributions from Major League Baseball as well as the Players Association.

The city has formally requested $2 million in citywide Public Improvement Advisory Committee funds, plus an additional $52,000 earmarked for the third district.

The state of Missouri is also kicking in $2 million.

“My short-term goal is to get it built and get kids in it, intermediate term is to get kids into colleges and high schools, and after that, we’re praying we’ve done a good enough job through the program and the teaching that kids will be able to find and rise to their own level of competence,” James says.

He didn’t dismiss the possibility of the Urban Youth Academy producing another homegrown great like Frank White. The decade-old program in Compton, California, has advanced seven players to the majors.

A capital campaign is underway for the second phase of the project, an indoor training facility with many amenities. The Royals will pay the $500,000 annual operating costs.

Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

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