NEW ORLEANS, LA—Today, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, local elected officials, and FEMA were joined by representatives from Major League Baseball to celebrate the opening of the New Orleans MLB Urban Youth Academy at the newly reconstructed, $6.5 million Wesley Barrow Stadium located at 6403 Press Drive in Pontchartrain Park. The new stadium complex replaces a 55 year old stadium that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Funding for this project came from City bond and FEMA recovery dollars.
“The best tool in improving our economy and reducing crime is by investing in meaningful activities for our youth,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. “There is no better partner than Major League Baseball to bring high quality programming to the kids of New Orleans. The new Wesley Barrow Stadium and revamped Joe Bartholomew Golf Course complement our redevelopment efforts in Pontchartrain Park.”
Frank Robinson, Executive Vice President of Baseball Development for Major League Baseball said, “The New Orleans MLB Urban Youth Academy will offer a positive and unique learning environment as it provides young people throughout Southern Louisiana with a wealth of opportunities to enhance their skills and knowledge on and off the field. This state-of-the-art facility will be a benefit to the local community and beyond, and will be a significant component of our effort of giving underserved and urban youth the chance to play baseball and softball. We have been honored to work with the City of New Orleans and contribute to the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort by making this dream facility at Wesley Barrow Stadium a reality.”
The new Wesley Barrow Stadium is constructed from precast concrete with a capacity for 650 spectators. The stadium features a 200 square foot climate controlled Press Box with data communications links that controls the new public address system and new LED scoreboard. The playing field is a professional sized artificial turf baseball field with a clay pitcher’s mound, has two enclosed team dugouts with player bathrooms and two fenced bull pen areas with two warm-up lanes each. There is also a Concessions booth and administration facilities underneath the stadium that include two 300 square foot climate controlled office and conference room spaces where classes and indoor instruction will be held. The Tee Ball and Softball fields are both natural turf with bleachers for spectators. Practice facilities include a three lane outdoor Batting Practice Cage and a two lane indoor Batting Practice Building.
The entire facility utilizes state-of-the-art field lighting with high energy efficiency fixtures. A new extensive subsurface drainage system was constructed to quickly drain rainwater from the artificial and natural turf field and surrounding site. Graphics in the plaza and along exterior of the stadium celebrate the history of New Orleans baseball, including full color logos of the New Orleans Zephyrs and New Orleans Black Pelicans teams, and images of six famous local players including Ron Washington, Will Clark, Rusty Staub, Mel Ott, Dave Malarcher, and Wesley Barrow himself.
The New Orleans MLB Urban Youth Academy will operate in partnership with the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission on a youth program that will provide free, year-round baseball and softball instruction as well as educational and baseball vocation programming for young people from underserved and urban communities throughout southern Louisiana. Attendees to the New Orleans MLB Urban Youth Academy will be given the opportunity to participate in free seminars on umpiring, athletic field management, scouting and player development, sports and broadcast journalism, public relations and statistics, as well as athletic sports training. The Academy’s goal is to graduate 100 percent of the youth it serves. The New Orleans facility is the fourth operational MLB Urban Youth Academy, joining existing ones in Compton, California; Houston, Texas; and Gurabo, Puerto Rico.
District D Councilmember Cynthia Hedge-Morrell said, “The new Wesley Barrow stadium and our partnership with Major League Baseball will give all our children the opportunity to both learn the game of baseball and engage in activities that promote camaraderie and sportsmanship. The Urban Youth Academy, the first of its kind in a city without a major league baseball team, offers our children professional level instruction in the sport. This is a win-win for everyone! New Orleans, we have a Major League Baseball facility and this is something to celebrate. We reached for the sky and captured the stars!”
Councilmember-at-Large Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson said, “This is a remarkable accomplishment for our city and will be one of our proudest NORDC sites! Thank you to all that have made it possible.”
District B Councilmember Diana Bajoie said, “The newly-built Wesley Barrow Stadium and Major League Baseball’s Urban Youth Academy will provide our young people interested in baseball with a state-of-the-art space to receive professional quality instruction in the sport, and offer all of our children an opportunity to practice teamwork and the other valuable social skills that come with playing the game. The city’s new Recreation Department is Major League.”
Deputy Mayor of Facilities, Infrastructure and Community Development Cedric Grant said, “The new Wesley Barrow Stadium is an important element to our place-based development strategy for revitalizing Pontchartrain Park and the surrounding neighborhoods. This new stadium and the recently enhanced Joe Bartholomew Golf Course are great monuments to the achievements of African Americans in our community.”
New Orleans Recreation Development Commission CEO Vic Richard said, “We are extremely excited about the opening of the MLB Urban Youth Academy. This collaboration with Major League Baseball is proof positive of the strength of partnerships. This project will give our children the opportunity to engage in constructive and worthwhile activities and it gets us one step closer to Mayor Landrieu’s goal of becoming the top recreation program in the country.”
Chairman of New Orleans Recreation Development Commission Roy Glapion said, “We would like to thank Major League Baseball for their commitment to our community. We are focused on providing our youth with as many positive programs and opportunities as possible. This will be a great addition to our facilities and our programming.”
In addition to City leadership, several State and Federal Officials have been involved in the project.
U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond said, “I know firsthand the positive impact sports makes in the lives of our youth. Baseball played an important role in my life as a kid. The friendships established, mentors cherished and the priceless memories can never be replaced. I am happy that generations of New Orleans youth will have access to superb MLB Urban Youth Academy programming and will be afforded the same opportunities I had.”
District 3 State Senator JP Morrell said, "Wesley Barrow Stadium is pillar of the Gentilly community. It has been the field upon which many a baseball dream began and it has produced baseball legends, such as Texas Rangers Manager Ron Washington. We're proud to a new haven to young men and women to pursue their dreams on and off the field."
District 4 State Senator Edwin R. Murray said, “The restoration of Wesley Barrow Stadium is an important step forward in our recovery from Hurricane Katrina. For decades, this stadium served as a gathering place for our community to celebrate achievements in both sports and life. Pontchartrain Park and the city of New Orleans grow even stronger today.”
District 97 State Representative Jared Brossett said, “Major League Baseball has been a great partner in this process in helping to rebuild the city of New Orleans. I would like to thank Major League Baseball for choosing Pontchartrain Park as the location for this new stadium. This site will be invaluable to the rejuvenation of a baseball culture amongst our neighborhoods and will be an asset for the children of the city of New Orleans. I'm excited that we have reached this day.”
District 99 State Representative Wesley Bishop said, “I am both pleased and proud to be able to re-open Wesley Barrow Stadium in the Gentilly area. I grew up playing baseball there as a member of the baseball team at McDonough #35. The facility is state-of-the art and will allow the young people of this city to enjoy a true American pastime. I commend Major League Baseball and the City of New Orleans for their efforts.”
FEMA Louisiana Recovery Office Acting Executive Director Andre Cadogan said, “As a recreational facility that will provide free baseball and softball instruction year-round to local children, Wesley Barrow Stadium will have a lasting impact on this community for years to come. This equates to a ‘win’ for all involved, making FEMA honored for our role in funneling $2.1 million in federal taxpayer dollars into Wesley Barrow Stadium’s recovery efforts.”
Wesley Barrow Stadium was designed by SCNZ Architects of New Orleans and built by Ryan Gootee General Contractors of New Orleans.
Officials also took the opportunity to highlight the completed Press Drive Streetscaping Project that saw more than 250 trees and over 530 shrubs planted along the median of Press Drive from Chef Menteur Hwy to Leon C. Simon Blvd. as well as neighborhood signage denoting the Gentilly Woods and Pontchartrain Park. Working together with the Pontilly Disaster Collaborative, Longue Vue House and Gardens was awarded a grant from the Greater New Orleans Foundation to develop a community-driven design for the Press Drive Corridor.