City plans two new adapted baseball fields for athletes with special needs

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's a potential field of dreams for metro athletes with disabilities. It's a chance to get in the game.

Kansas City's Parks Department plans to build two new adapted baseball fields for ball players with special needs.

FOX 4's Sean McDowell was at the park on Noland Road at the site of a proposed field.

The city approved the plan on Tuesday, which will build one of the new fields at Little Blue Valley Park, which at one point was a popular drag racing strip.

Leaders on the Parks Board said there are thousands of special needs athletes in the metro who require an adapted field to compete, and accommodating those athletes is a priority.

It's a simple game that means the world to athletes who play. Records show that roughly 200,000 people with disabilities live in the metro.

The 17-acre plot of land, which used to be the Kansas City International Raceway, could be their athletic home.

"The city has embraced this project," said Mark Bowland with the Kansas City Parks Department. Bowland is pushing the $1.6 million project to build the adapted fields, like the one in Independence.

"There's been so many people with disabilities, so many of our adults particularly, with disabilities and have had no access to sports and recreation," Bowland said.

Bowland said he's not alone in supporting the project. The Parks Department plans to employ the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, which builds adapted ballparks all across the nation.

"We know the Cal Ripken Foundation understands the importance of recreation and leisure and we try to provide this experience for persons of all abilities," Bowland said.

Bowland said there are a handful of other adapted ballparks around the metro, but unlike others, this project will be available for adults to use as well as kids.

Special Olympics of Missouri could be one agency to use the fields. That excites program manager Sarah Brachand, who knows these athletes will appreciate it.

"They're having fun playing the sport, but they get to interact with other individuals. They get to perform in front of their parents and families and friends, and seeing them get a medal and just the biggest smile on their face," Brachand said.

Bowland said the Parks Department currently has just a quarter of the money needed for the project. He said he would like to see ground broken on the project and potentially have games held on the land next summer.