KC city officials expected to approve $4-million in funding for Urban Youth Academy

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The plan to build an Urban Youth Academy in downtown Kansas City is about to become a reality as city officials are expected to vote on Wednesday to approve funding to build baseball fields near 18th and Vine.

City officials told FOX 4's Matt Stewart that the contracts have already been signed – so the vote to approve $4-million dollars in bonds to begin construction at Parade Park is expected to pass.

The plan is to tear down the two existing fields and completely redevelop the tract of land in an effort to bring baseball to the kids living in the urban core.

"This is a significant development in the heart of the urban core, and I think it's going to have tremendous impact in the growth of this community," Bob Kendrick with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum said. "So we are all excited about it."

The total cost for this first phase is $7-million– with Major League Baseball providing the additional $3-million to help build two full-size baseball fields, two youth fields, bleachers, basketball courts, tennis courts and a playground.

This will be the seventh Urban Youth Academy that Major League Baseball has sponsored. Several major league players have come out of the academy.

Kansas City’s Urban Youth Academy will provide inner city kids free baseball equipment, free uniforms and free instruction. They’ll play on teams where they can learn the game of baseball while avoiding the trouble that tempts so many of these kids.

"When you've got something to do and it's structured, and it's organized and you're working hard at it, you're too tired to do anything else and you don't have time to get into the things that are so often tempting our children and the influences that are out there," Kendrick said.

This Academy is being built in partnership with the Kansas City Royals, who will provide staff and funds to actually run the Academy – along with the Negro League Museum, which hopes to design the uniforms and connect these kids with baseball’s past.

"What we're going to do is create solid young men," Kendrick said. "Young men who will have values, they will have principles to guide them as they move forward in life and again, I think that's what sports does."

Many believe the clinics and tournaments this Academy host in the future will attract many people from outside Kansas City to travel here and help revitalize the 18th and Vine District.

The plan is to begin building the new ball fields this spring and have them completed by the fall.

Fundraising is already underway to raise an additional $7-million for Phase Two – which will include and indoor training facility and lights so they can play baseball at night.