Major League Baseball and the City of New Orleans have officially opened the MLB Urban Youth Academy at Wesley Barrow Stadium in Pontchartrain Park following a $6.5 million renovation project. The Academy will provide free, year-round baseball and softball instruction as well as educational and baseball vocation programming for young people from underserved and urban communities throughout southern Louisiana. The new stadium complex replaces a 55-year-old stadium that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
“Major League Baseball is proud to stand alongside the City of New Orleans as we open the New Orleans MLB Urban Youth Academy, which will represent the national pastime’s lasting contribution to the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort,” said Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig. “Our newest Academy, located in one of our nation’s most vibrant cities, will impact many young lives by providing significant opportunities on and off the diamond.”
“The New Orleans MLB Urban Youth Academy will offer a positive and unique learning environment as it provides young people throughout Southern Louisiana with a wealth of opportunities to enhance their skills and knowledge on and off the field,” said Frank Robinson, Executive Vice President of Baseball Development, Major League Baseball. “This state-of-the-art facility will be a benefit to the local community and beyond, and will be a significant component of our effort of giving underserved and urban youth the chance to play baseball and softball. We have been honored to work with the City of New Orleans and contribute to the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort by making this dream facility at Wesley Barrow Stadium a reality.”
“The best tool in improving our economy and reducing crime is by investing in meaningful activities for our youth,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. “There is no better partner than Major League Baseball to bring high quality programming to the kids of New Orleans. The new Wesley Barrow Stadium complements our redevelopment efforts in Pontchartrain Park.”
The new Wesley Barrow Stadium is constructed from precast concrete with a capacity for 650 spectators. The stadium features a 200-square-foot climate-controlled press box with data communications links that control the new public address system and new LED scoreboard. The playing field is a professional-sized artificial turf baseball field with a clay pitcher’s mound, two enclosed team dugouts with player bathrooms and two fenced bullpen areas with two warm-up lanes each. There is also a concessions booth and administration facilities underneath the stadium that include two 300-square-foot climate-controlled officer and conference room spaces where classes and indoor instruction will be held. The Tee Ball and Softball fields are both natural turf with bleachers for spectators. Practice facilities include a three-lane outdoor batting practice cage and a two-lane indoor batting practice building.
The entire facility utilizes state-of-the-art field lighting with high energy efficiency fixtures. A new extensive subsurface drainage system was constructed to quickly drain rainwater from the artificial and natural turf field and surrounding site. Graphics in the plaza and along the exterior of the stadium celebrate the history of New Orleans baseball, including full color logos of the New Orleans Zephyrs and New Orleans Black Pelicans teams, and images of six famous local players, including Hall of Famer Mel Ott, Texas Rangers manager and New Orleans native Ron Washington, six-time MLB All-Star Will Clark, six-time MLB All-Star Rusty Staub, Dave Malarcher and Wesley Barrow himself.
The New Orleans MLB Urban Youth Academy will operate in partnership with the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission on a dynamic youth program that will provide free, year-round baseball and softball instruction as well as educational and baseball vocation programming for young people from underserved and urban communities throughout southern Louisiana. Attendees to the New Orleans MLB Urban Youth Academy will be given the opportunity to participate in free seminars on umpiring, athletic field management, scouting and player development, sports and broadcast journalism, public relations and statistics, as well as athletic sports training. The Academy’s goal is to graduate 100 percent of the youth it serves.
New Orleans Recreation Development Commission CEO Vic Richard said, “We are extremely excited about the opening of the MLB Urban Youth Academy. This collaboration with Major League Baseball is proof positive of the strength of partnerships. This project will give our children the opportunity to engage in constructive and worthwhile activities and it gets us one step closer to Mayor Landrieu’s goal of becoming the top recreation program in the country.”
The New Orleans facility which was designed by SCNZ Architects of New Orleans and built by Ryan Gootee General Contractors of New Orleans, is the fourth operational MLB Urban Youth Academy, joining existing ones in Compton, California; Houston, Texas; and Gurabo, Puerto Rico. The New Orleans MLB Urban Youth Academy is modeled after the first Academy in Compton. Opening its doors in 2006, the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton has given talented young players in that area the chance to play organized baseball and softball, with more than 300 Academy student-athletes going on to participate in collegiate baseball and softball programs. Nearly 140 student-athletes have been selected in the MLB First-Year Player Draft since the Compton Academy’s inception, with approximately 80 signing professional contracts. Two Academy graduates were on Major League rosters during the 2012 regular season (Trayvon Robinson – Seattle Mariners; Anthony Gose – Toronto Blue Jays).
Two other Academies have been announced for Hialeah, Florida and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in addition to the operating MLB Urban Youth Academies. As part of the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Initiative, all MLB Urban Youth Academies provide free, year-round baseball and softball instruction, as well as education programs. For more information, go to MLB.com/urbanyouthacademy.
In the immediate wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Major League Baseball developed a league-wide initiative to raise funds for victims affected by the storm. As part of the Major League Baseball Hurricane Katrina relief plan, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association made an initial $1 million joint donation, and MLB and its Clubs collected more than $1.2 million in-stadium to benefit the American Red Cross during fan collection drives around the league. In response to the overwhelming generosity of its fans, Major League Baseball made an additional $1 million contribution to the relief efforts to bring the total dollar contributions to more than $3 million benefiting various initiatives supporting the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.