In two weeks, the Fort Wayne City Council will hear a Legacy Fund request from the World Baseball Academy for lighting at the facility's three new fields.
On Feb. 6, the council will consider a $600,000 request for lighting fixtures at the ASH Centre just west of downtown. If approved, the majority of the money will go toward light poles, fixtures and installation at all three of the facility's baseball fields. The total cost of the lighting project is $650,000. The resolution, which was introduced at Tuesday's City Council meeting, is sponsored by Councilmen Tom Didier, R-3rd, and Geoff Paddock, D-5th.
“Councilman Didier and I have been proponents of this for a long time and we thought since they made such progress on their own, but need a little help at the end, we might try this again,” Paddock said.
It's not the first time the World Baseball Academy has requested a grant from the Legacy Fund, which is composed of money generated from the lease and sale of the city's old power utility. In November 2014, the Legacy Joint Funding Committee recommended the project for an $800,000 grant. However, World Baseball Academy officials abandoned the request in light of focus on downtown riverfront development.
Most of the first phase of the project's master plan was completed in November after the World Baseball Academy raised nearly $2.8 million of its $3.4 million goal.
“We realize that four years ago, when this project was recommended by the Legacy Joint Funding Committee, there was some doubt as to whether there was enough community support to make these fields reality,” World Baseball Academy CEO Caleb Kimmel said in a statement Tuesday. “The community has put those doubts to rest, rallying to donate nearly $2.8 million to build top-quality fields.”
Paddock, who represents the district where the fields are located, agreed.
“It really is a beautiful addition, and I think it is exceeding the expectations of many individuals,” Paddock said. “I think it got the attention from some of the folks in the administration who didn't think it might be as big and expansive and inclusive as it is. Now that (the World Baseball Academy) is getting to that stage, they need just a little bit of help to get over the finish line.”
If approved, the grant would allow the organization to complete its project this year.
The World Baseball Academy contends the lights will improve safety and reduce light pollution. Without the lights, the fields' use will remain at 65 percent to 70 percent of its total capacity. That means 2,000 fewer midweek games played at those fields over 10 years. World Baseball Academy officials also say the tournaments held at the ASH Centre will generate more than $1 million per year in tourism and that the lights are needed to realize the fields' total potential impact.
Youth sports have always been a focus for the Legacy Fund committee, Didier said. He added that aside from loans for projects such as The Landing and Clyde Theatre, the Legacy Fund committee hasn't recommended one project for funding. Didier said he hopes it will be easier for other council members to support because the World Baseball Academy managed to raise most of the necessary funds without Legacy Fund help.
“They took the bull by the horns. They went out and got donors to get the money they needed to get,” Didier said. “They've done what we asked them to do and they did it before we voted on it. They waited four years and they hit their number.”