The World Baseball Academy's vision is getting closer to becoming a reality. Well, at least the first phase is drawing nearer to completion.
With the beginning of the installation of the artificial turf infield surfaces to the three new baseball fields on the ASH Centre campus, the WBA's “More Than A Game” project is coming closer to fruition.
“It has been very rewarding to see our staff, our board, our donors get as excited as they are,” WBA chief executive officer Caleb Kimmel said Thursday. “It has taken a lot of hard work to get to this point, but this really is a community project. We have heard a lot of buzz about Fort Wayne needing this, so it is rewarding. ... We still have a lot of hard work ahead of ourselves.”
Through strictly local donors, the WBA has brought in $2.7 million of its goal of $3.2 million for Phase 1 of the project. The additional money is still needed to complete the fields, with state-of-the-art lighting, dugouts, scoreboards and other features.
“That gave us enough momentum to really get started in a pretty big way out here with the transformation,” Kimmel said of the $2.7 million.
When the three high school-sized fields are completed in the fall, there will still be some waiting for the grass to grow in the outfields. Usage by youth, high school and college teams will be available next spring.
When ready for play, Kimmel expects the number of games to increase with the typical youth games, but also the addition of high school and local colleges games when their own home fields have too much saturation. The WBA has already been talking to Saint Francis about making it the Cougars' home field.
Kimmel said there will be a dedication ceremony in the fall.
With the central hub of turf-infield fields, Kimmel said it will be a rarity in Indiana and the only one of its kind north of Indianapolis. He also said the community pride and economic impact from out-of-town teams will bring significant gains to Fort Wayne as well.
“This is a very strong baseball community,” Kimmel said. “We have a rich history of baseball in Fort Wayne, so this is neat to this as the next steppingstone in that story. This means that we have a central facility that we can be very proud of that compares to a lot of other communities around the U.S.”
When Phase 1 is complete, work will begin raising funds for Phase 2, which will include three Little League-size fields for six total fields.
“That's been one of the most rewarding aspects, it really has been a community project focusing on the family and kids,” Kimmel said.
The project was designed by Design Collaborative Architects & Engineers of Fort Wayne, while Weigand Construction is the general contractor for the project. The artificial turf is being installed by The Motz Group.
Donations for the project can be made securely at www.worldbaseballacademy.com.