To many the new Kansas City Urban Youth Academy near 18th and Vine in Kansas City is more than just a place for kids to play baseball and softball.
Kansas City Councilman Jermaine Reed calls it "a sacred place for everyone in Kansas City."
"This is where it should be," says Tony Reagins, who is head of youth sports for Major League Baseball.
The ribbon was cut Thursday morning on the $20 million building, which sits in the shadow of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and just blocks away from the long gone Municipal Stadium, where the Monarchs, A's and Royals played.
The Royals, MLB, the city, state and a lot of private donors came together to complete the facility. “The major league team has to use their platform to grow the game at the younger level,” says Royals General Manager Dayton Moore. He also says the academy is a place to teach not just sports but leadership and community. "We can begin to bridge the gap between our urban, suburban and rural communities of Kansas City through the games of baseball and softball.”
The Royals have pledged $500,000 a year for 20 years to operate the academy.
"I know this place is going to develop leaders," Kansas City Mayor Sly James told the crowd, gathered on the regulation sized infield inside the 40,000 square foot facility.
The academy is expected to serve up to 1,000 youths a year between 6 and 18 years of age. In addition to coaching, there will be academic and career help.
This is the eighth youth academy MLB has helped create. "We've seen this work. It works," says Reagins. He says these academies provide kids "an opportunity to be more than they ever thought they would be."
The first MLB youth academy opened in Compton, California in 2006. Other academies are planned for the Bronx, Chicago and San Francisco, according to the MLB website.
Sam Zeff is KCUR's Metro Reporter. Follow him on Twitter @samzeff.