FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)- Fort Wayne’s World Baseball Academy announced on Friday another $1 million contribution to Fort Wayne’s economy.
WBA Hoosier Classic youth baseball tournaments this summer generated $1,073,512 in tourism economic impact for Fort Wayne, officials announced, saying this is the third consecutive year the organization has generated more than $1 million in positive economic impact to the city.
In 2014, WBA officials said 166 teams from the Midwest and Canada participated in tournaments held April through July.
“A six percent growth this year [over 2013] is nice, but that could increase dramatically – 100 percent and more – with renovation of our fields at the ASH Centre,” according to WBA Chief Executive Officer Caleb Kimmel. “Competition in travel youth baseball is growing as other Indiana communities invest millions in new facilities. We know with additional community investment, Fort Wayne can become a first-choice destination for youth sports through a renovated, youth baseball complex.”
The two-phase renovation plan would rebuild four ball fields for durability and cost-effective maintenance, allowing extensive use with affordable operational costs.
Phase 1 includes construction of three baseball fields sized for young players through high school play with artificial surface infields, new lighting and other important upgrades.
Phase 2 includes construction of a collegiate-size ball field with all artificial surfaces and lighting.
“Our largest tournament weekend this year attracted 28 teams over the course of 3 days. When Phase 1 is complete, we will host 64 teams in a single weekend,” Kimmel explained. “Developing a central hub with high-quality surfaces, combined with the WBA’s experience as a tournament event planner, will significantly increase youth baseball’s impact on the local economy.”
The Phase One fields have a $3.2 million price tag. In 2012, a citizen panel recommended that Fort Wayne’s Legacy Fund invest in the youth baseball project, according to WBA officials.
That recommendation is still pending and, since matching dollars would likely be required for any grant from the Legacy Fund, the WBA has begun its own fundraising efforts.
WBA officials are urging the Fort Wayne City Council and Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry to make a determination soon on whether to use Legacy funds for the renovation plan so construction can occur in time for the 2016 baseball season.