Moore, Royals join in UYA groundbreaking ceremony

KC GM praises community support as Phase I of facility begins

Moore, Royals join in UYA groundbreaking ceremony

KANSAS CITY -- As the movers and shakers involved with the $14 million Kansas City MLB Urban Youth Academy project put on hard hats and grabbed silver shovels for a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday morning, the sun broke through the clouds at Parade Park.

The sunshine seemed symbolic, because the overriding theme of the day was about the bright outlook for Kansas City youth who will have the opportunity to participate in the Academy. The project is targeted for a Phase I completion in November. Phase I will include three baseball fields, one softball field, a walking trail with views of the baseball and softball diamonds, relocated basketball courts, relocated and renovated tennis courts and a relocated playground near the community center.

Kansas City mayor Sly James announced that, weather permitting, the site clearing is planned for May 11 and the mass excavation for May 16. Turf for the fields is expected to be installed in mid-to-late July.

"This project is very personal to me," James said. "I'm a father who had a son who played baseball growing up. I know the lessons that he learned as a result of playing baseball. He developed a good, strong work ethic and learned what it means to be part of a team.

"As mayor, I can't think of a better project. It's not lost on me that 100 yards [away] is the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Now we're bringing baseball right back to the doorstep of where it all started for the Negro Leagues."

The Academy's initial goal will be to serve approximately 800 to 1,000 kids per year from ages 6 to 18. In addition to providing free year-round baseball and softball instruction, the Academy will provide youth access to educational and vocational programs.

Joining James at the podium for the official groundbreaking were Royals general manager Dayton Moore and MLB senior vice president of youth programs Tony Reagins.

Royals legend George Brett, left fielder Alex Gordon and right-hander Chris Young were also present.

"It's just an unbelievable opportunity to give back and to see the children realize their dreams," Young said. "We have a platform as Major Leaguers to help improve the lives of others. If we don't do that, we miss our calling. This is just a great project, and I'm happy to be part of it."

Moore believes the building and maintaining of the Urban Youth Academy will be challenging but extremely rewarding, in a manner reminiscent of the meticulous building of his World Series championship baseball team.

"This facility is going to be special," Moore said. "But the truth of the matter is it's going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication. It's going to take everybody, as we come alongside young people and grow them as leaders. It's ultimately going to be a great journey that we're going to put our heart and soul into to make it work."

The Kansas City MLB Urban Youth Academy is among nine either in development or fully operational in the United States. The Royals, the Glass family and local charitable support will provide personnel and cover all of the Academy's operating expenses including equipment, supplies and utilities.

"The support of this community is special," Moore said. "I've never been part of something where so many people have come together for the greater good of one thing."

Phase II, contingent on the successful completion of a fundraising campaign, includes an indoor training facility with a turf infield, batting cages and pitching mounds, restrooms and concession facilities for the diamonds, a Great Lawn that will serve as a front yard and shared event space for the Academy and additional parking.

"On behalf of Major League Baseball, we are excited to be a part of this," Reagins said. "We understand how important it is to this community and to baseball in general."

Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.