The long-awaited transformation of World Baseball Academy's outdoor ball fields is in high gear. Construction crews are tearing down the old to make way for the highest-quality youth baseball facility in northern Indiana.
WBA's ASH Centre Youth Sports Complex is located at 1701 Freeman St., about two miles west of downtown Fort Wayne. I invite you to drive, walk or bicycle by to monitor the transformation of this 26-acre property. Updates will soon be available on WBA's Facebook page, thanks to a drone-based camera that will capture construction progress.
As a not-for-profit organization, World Baseball Academy has been fund-raising for the new fields for more than three years. We are very grateful to the people, companies and foundations who have helped us get this far: $2.35 million in donations and pledges. That amount allows us to complete two of the three fields in Phase One of our “More Than A Game” plan. In baseball terms, we've reached third base. We need $850,000 more to make it home.
Reaching the $3.2 million goal would allow a third field to be completed and first-class lighting to be installed on all three fields. Without lights, even the two completed fields will not reach their full potential for use.
That would be a loss that extends way beyond the game of baseball. These new fields will provide a competitive edge to our community.
Northeast Indiana's Road to One Million Plan focuses on strategic investments that will retain and attract a younger, more educated workforce in order to grow our economy.
As the Northeast Indiana Partnership website states: “The value of the projects included in this plan is reinforced by study upon study confirming the connection between talent attraction and outdoor recreation, arts, vibrant downtowns, and opportunities for entrepreneurship.”
World Baseball Academy believes youth sports, including WBA's Hoosier Classic Tournaments, will help polish the brand the Road to One Million Plan seeks to create.
Those who keep the stats on youth sports understand it is its own industry and a major economic driver, particularly for communities that are tournament destinations.
Traverse City, Michigan's Chamber of Commerce commissioned a study to determine the economic impact of youth sports tournaments that annually bring 15,900 people – athletes and their families – to the area. In addition to measuring economic impact, the study also found that the families participating in travel sports are ideal future residents.
“…The tournaments may be effective ways to attract 'talent' to the region, as the parents of young athletes on travel teams appear to bring a mix of abilities and professional experiences that are highly attractive to growing economies; a significant number of these people were motivated to contemplate a move to the Traverse City region based on their experiences of the youth tournaments,” according to the study “Game On! The Impact of Youth Sports on a Regional Economy” by Sherwood B. Smith.
WBA's project will propel Fort Wayne toward a strategic position as a first-choice destination for youth sports, measurably supporting the local economy with $17 million in economic impact over the next 10 years while helping attract potential new residents.
Local kids will gain greater access to quality fields operated in a family-friendly atmosphere where sportsmanship, wise choices and leadership beyond the game are valued and modeled.
Although competition is increasing every year from new facilities in other communities, WBA's experience demonstrates that a central hub with high-quality playing surfaces, combined with the WBA's experience as a tournament planner and community collaborator, will compete very well and be sustainable into the future.
When all three of WBA's new fields are completed with lights, quality surfaces and other amenities, they will be as vibrant as Fort Wayne's cultural love of sports and recreation.
To learn more about the World Baseball Academy, go to www.worldbaseballacademy.com
Tax-deductible contributions may be sent to the academy at 1701 Freeman St., Fort Wayne, IN, 46802.
Caleb Kimmel is chief executive officer for the World Baseball Academy.