Katrina E. Williams
Northeast News

The $19 million, state-of-the-art Kansas City Urban Youth Academy (1622 John Buck O’Neil Way), just outside of the 18th and Vine district, won’t host its official grand opening celebration until Saturday, March 31, but programming at the facility is already underway.

On Saturday, March 17th at 9 a.m., the academy hosted a clinic for boys ranging in age from 6-9 years old. On March 24th, the academy offered a softball clinic, available to youth girls spanning from 6-18 years old.

The March 31 grand opening, featuring a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony, will also be accompanied by a “Day of Play” for the benefit of the community from 11:a.m. – 3:p.m. Attendees can watch a college softball game between UMKC and New Mexico State, a high school game between Cristo Rey or Alta Vista, and two youth games from the Reviving Baseball in the Inner City (RBI) program, which is operated by the Boys and Girls Club.

“We have a total of four fields at the academy and they’ll all be in use that day,” said Angel McGee, Manager of Communications and Outreach for the Urban Youth Academy.

During the “Day of Play” event, children will be treated to face painting, as well as caricature and balloon artists. Appearances will also be made by KayCee (The ‘W’ Guy,) Sluggerrr, and the Easter Bunny.

The Urban Youth Academy has come to fruition through joint efforts and contributions from the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Foundation, the Kansas City Royals, MLB Player’s Association, the City of Kansas City, and the state of Missouri. Initial funding for Phase I included $2 million from the State of Missouri, $2.052 million from the City of Kansas City, $2 million from the MLB Urban Youth Foundation, and $1 million from the MLB Player’s Association. Additional funds were also gathered through private donations.

Partners involved with the Kansas City Urban Youth Academy initially broke ground at the site on April 20, 2016, in a ceremony that included Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore, former Royals great George Brett, and Royals star Alex Gordon, among others.

At the time, Kansas City, Missouri Mayor Sly James noted the historical importance of bringing the Urban Youth Academy to the 18th and Vine District.
“As Mayor, I can’t think of a better project than this one. This is a no-lose project,” said James. “It is not lost on me that 100 yards that way is the Negro Leagues Museum, where the Negro Leagues was started. Now we’re bringing baseball right back to the doorstep of where it all started.”

The Academy currently hosts baseball practices in their fields for area high schools and the Police Athletic League (PAL). McGee encouraged area residents to visit www.royalsurbanyouthacademy.com/events to learn about more upcoming programming at the state-of-the-art facility.

“We are [also] working diligently to update our calendar for the academy,” McGee said. “We’ve been focused on the grand opening.”