Urban Youth Academy coming to New Orleans
Crescent City becomes the first non-MLB city to host UYA
Major League Baseball and the city of New Orleans, La., have reached a preliminary agreement to construct a new MLB Urban Youth Academy in Southern Louisiana.
That agreement -- reached by the MLB Urban Youth Foundation, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and members of the City Council -- still needs to be voted on by City Council on July 7 to become official.
MLB already has fully functional UYAs in Compton, Calif., and Houston, operates another in Puerto Rico, and has others in the works for Philadelphia and South Florida. The New Orleans UYA would follow the same model as all of those -- providing free year-round youth baseball and softball, as well as educational programs, to underserved kids -- and would operate at Wesley Barrow Stadium in Pontchartrain Park.
The New Orleans UYA, according to a release sent out by the city, would impact more than 1,500 kids.
"We are pleased to be at this phase of the planning process for the future New Orleans MLB Urban Youth Academy," MLB executive vice president of baseball development Jimmie Lee Solomon said. "We look forward to the City Council's decision, and are hopeful for the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young people of New Orleans."
The UYA would work in conjunction with the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission.
Wesley Barrow Stadium, one of Landrieu's "100 Committed Projects," is expected to receive more than $5.3 million in renovations. That money would go towards the construction of three fields -- for baseball, softball and tee ball -- complete with scoreboards, seating, dugouts and lights. There will also be a complex that will feature four batting cages, an indoor facility, pitching mounds and other training outlets.
"Our best tool in improving our economy and reducing crime is by investing in meaningful activities for our youth," Landrieu said. "I am pleased to have worked with Councilman [Arnie] Fielkow and Major League Baseball to bring this invaluable program to the kids of New Orleans. It will provide them with valuable life skills and offers yet another alternative to the temptation of the streets."
The New Orleans UYA is also expected to work in cooperation with Southern University at New Orleans, the local school districts and various chapters of the Boys & Girls Club of America. The Academy, according to the release, will select recommended participants throughout Southern Louisiana, primarily involving youth from any underserved community.
"The Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy will be a great addition to the entire City of New Orleans," Fielkow said. "This state-of-the-art youth sports facility is a transformational project for the City of New Orleans. The fact that Major League Baseball selected New Orleans to be its first non-MLB city to host an Academy is a testament to the resiliency of our citizens and the bright future which lies ahead. I thank Major League Baseball for having the confidence to bring this tremendous asset to the youth of the Crescent City."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.