Baseball complex coming to Windsor, Colo.

Future Legends will host Northern Colorado Owlz of Pioneer League

December 1st, 2020

The drive north along I-25 from Denver to Cheyenne, Wyo., is almost exactly 100 miles. The exit for Windsor, Colo. -- population 34,161 -- marks the approximate halfway point.

Windsor is closer to the trailheads of Rocky Mountain National Park than the basepaths of Coors Field, making the town the unlikely site of a singular, forward-looking project on the future of family engagement with baseball.

But it is.

The Northern Colorado Owlz were announced Monday as one of eight Pioneer League franchises now operating as independent clubs in partnership with Major League Baseball. The Owlz relocated to Windsor from Orem, Utah, their home since 2005.

The Owlz will play at Future Legends Complex, which is “a new 118-acre sports, entertainment and retail development” due to be fully operational by spring 2022, according to a news release. Ownership group Future Legends, LLC, plans to host 14 weeklong baseball tournaments annually at the site’s youth sports complex, concurrent with the Owlz’ 46-game home schedule.

Owlz owner Jeff Katofsky said one tenet of his vision is for every participant in a weeklong tournament to play one game in the professional ballpark. The stadium will have an artificial surface, to accommodate the heavy usage.

The program’s objective is less about identifying elite prospects than establishing an enduring connection to the sport -- even as the complex’s ownership group includes former/current Major Leaguers, such as Torii Hunter, Carlos González, Ryan Spilborghs, Brian Fuentes, Garrett Atkins, and Cory Sullivan.

“I want kids to have the opportunity to play on a professional field,” Katofsky told in a phone interview. “Imagine the impact that’s going to have on a 10-, 11- or 12-year-old kid. After that, the funnel [of competitive baseball] narrows and you start losing kids from the sport. So the sweet spot will be kids in the 8-to-13-year-old range. That’s a lifetime memory for them.”

Katofsky said Monday that no site in the country includes all of the elements that Future Legends Complex will feature: eight full-size baseball diamonds, including the professional ballpark; two indoor diamonds; one Miracle Field, constructed for children with special needs; a dormitory capable of hosting up to 64 youth teams; two hotels; and entertainment options including retail, restaurants and nightlife.

Tony Reagins, Chief Baseball Development Officer at MLB, said: “On behalf of Major League Baseball, I commend the efforts to develop the Future Legends Sports Complex. Jeff Katofsky is committed to having a positive impact on the next generation of student-athletes from Colorado and beyond through this world-class facility. We look forward to its completion and its future of giving young people and their families a well-rounded athletic and event experience.”

While the professional stadium is under construction prior to a 2022 unveiling, the Owlz will play next season on the most elaborate of the complex’s existing diamonds. The long-term vision for Future Legends includes youth soccer, basketball and volleyball programs, as well as men’s and women’s professional soccer teams.

Katofsky, who purchased the Owlz in 2004, is relying on his background as a real-estate developer in quarterbacking the Future Legends project. He said inclusivity -- in design and function -- is crucial to its overall mission.

“The placement of the Miracle Field at the center of the complex is intentional,” Katofsky said. “It’s at the core of what we want to achieve.”

The Miracle Field is personally important to Katofsky. Brett Berry, the son of Future Legends executive Rick Berry, has Down syndrome. As the Berry family relocates from Utah to Colorado, Brett, 33, will have an official title as the ambassador of the Miracle Field.

The concept of Future Legends traces back to the day Spilborghs learned that plans for a similar Katofsky-led effort in Pueblo, Colo., had fallen through. Spilborghs had been seeking a way to marry professional and youth baseball on a single site. He also has a deep affinity for the Windsor area, through living in Colorado during and after his tenure as a Rockies outfielder.

Spilborghs cold-called Katofsky to see if he’d like to collaborate on the project. By the end of their hourlong conversation, Spilborghs said they were finishing one another’s sentences.

“Kids can play in a pro stadium during the day, and then catch an Owlz game with their family in the same ballpark at night,” Spilborghs said Monday. “This isn’t only going to be about competitive sports. We want there to be rec programs on the site for the local community. We want playing sports to be affordable and accessible for everybody.

“When we say the project is community-driven, we truly mean that. We have a local contractor, Hensel Phelps, who is a partner, and they’re bringing jobs to the town. We wanted to make sure MLB had a hand in this, so they can hopefully use the site for RBI and Breakthrough Series events in the future. The Miracle Field is the focal point of the project. This is all designed to make the Northern Colorado community better while attracting people nationally to play at the complex.”

Spilborghs’ experience as a Major Leaguer from 2005-11 has been important in the project’s planning stages, but his current role as a parent of athletes in youth sports has been just as crucial.

“That experience has informed me that there’s a huge discrepancy between haves and have-nots, as youth sports have turned into such a big business,” Spilborghs said. “We’ve lost sight of what they’re supposed to be about -- which is a way for kids from different financial and cultural and competitive backgrounds to come together because of something they love.

“What makes us a good teammate is that we might be good at certain things and struggle at others. This shouldn’t be about whether my kid is ranked as the No. 1 prospect. As a parent, I want to provide an environment where kids feel safe and comfortable and they see kids from different backgrounds doing the same thing.”