The Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy is well under construction, with three baseball fields and an 18,000 square foot training facility nearing completion at Ward 7's Fort Dupont Park in Washington, D.C.
Marla Lerner Tanenbaum, principal owner and chairperson of the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation, made the announcement from the construction site on Thursday.
"Major League Baseball and the city decided that there was a need for a baseball academy of some sort in the District," Tanenbaum said. "One guideline was they wanted (it) modeled after Harlem RBI, a fantastic facility in New York, and just that the land would come from the District of Columbia. The city would donate a certain amount and the team would donate a certain amount. From that, we are here in 2013 about to open this facility."
Media got a first hand look at the facility on a eight-plus acre space donated by the National Park Service across from Sousa Middle School in Southeast D.C.. The Academy is expected to open in January of 2014 with the construction completion set for December.
Turner Construction Company and Anthony Brown from DP Partners, who designed the project, are constructing the vast facility.
Tanenbaum said the vision for the Academy began almost eight years ago.
"It has been a fantastic partnership between the city, Events DC, the Federal Government, the team and a lot of private donors," Tanenbaum said. "I think the bulk of the time between 2006 to today was spent getting the land from the Federal Government. While that process was going on, we were developing the core philosophy behind this program and how we would like it to be conducted."
Tanenbaum said the Nationals did their homework, touring and getting perspective from other similar facilities around the nation, finding out what worked well and what did not, molding that into a perfect plan for what they believe the Youth Baseball Academy can be in D.C.
"We were very excited to develop an academic program that would best serve the kids of D.C., it wasn't just about baseball and softball," Tanenbaum said. "It was also about developing a culture about baseball and softball in Washington having this be the hub of that. I think we have done that."
"It is a baseball and softball facility and will be utilized as such," said Tal Alter, Executive Director of the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy. "Most importantly, the philosophy behind what we are doing is that this is a holistic development program. It is an academic enrichment program. It is a health and wellness program. We are going to have a very robust curriculum in both areas in terms of academics and in terms of nutrition."
The Academy has already launched its after school academic program in October at nearby Kimball elementary school. Kimball is a temporary location for the YBA until the facility permanently opens in less than three months.
The Nationals Youth Baseball Academy program will focus on baseball instruction, academics, fitness and nutrition. The state-of-the-art facility features batting cages, eight classrooms, administrative offices, meeting rooms and a "teaching kitchen" on the second floor. The kitchen will be used to educate children on how to prepare foods and administer nutrition lessons so they can eat right from day-to-day.
The Academy will be designed for third through eighth graders, with a maximum of 45 students per grade level. It will run after school during the academic year and be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the summer. Children will be transported to the facility by the Youth Baseball Academy, arriving from Ward 7 and Ward 8 in the District.
"There are three fields on the property, two youth baseball/softball fields and a regulation baseball field," Alter said. "The (training facility) is really the jewel of what we are doing and is where a lot of the most important work will happen.
"The first floor will have a 4,800 square foot fitness area that will have batting cages and a turf surface that we can utilize for a lot of physical activity. There is a two-story atrium entry way which has a community room which can be used to bring in groups to use it for meeting space. On the second floor there are eight classrooms including a teaching kitchen where the nutrition education will take place."
There is also a spectacular observation deck on the second floor of the facility where you can see all three baseball fields and has stunning views of downtown Washington, D.C.. The Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol and the National Cathedral can be seen from the observation deck.
All the fields will be lighted so practices and games can be played after dark.
"That is a really exciting thing," Alter said. "We can have activities taking place here after dark in a positive place for young people to be. From my perspective, we can have baseball and softball being played throughout the year and at different times of day coordinating with various schedules. This allows us to maximize the use of the facility."
The Academy is a 501(c)3 organization founded by the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation in a unique alliance with the Government of the District of Columbia, Events DC and local political, civic and community leaders.
The Nationals Youth Baseball Academy is also a partner with Higher Achievement's DC Metro affiliate to launch the academic program at the site that is under way at Kimball elementary.
"We have already gotten started with third and fourth graders taking part in programs three days a week," Alter said. "We are partnering with Higher Achievement to implement volunteer mentors. We are still recruiting mentors, so if you are interested in being a part of this program we encourage you to contact us about doing that."
For information on how to volunteer to help Higher Achievement at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, contact Matt Thornton at firstname.lastname@example.org.