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Royals launch Urban Youth Academy in KC

Special to MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- Two years ago, standing before the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum with a shovel and a hard hat, Dayton Moore had a grand vision for the youth of the greater Kansas City area.

That vision called for a state-of-the-art baseball, softball and education facility situated in the historic 18th and Vine District. Roll the tape forward to Thursday, when Moore's idea was realized with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that officially opened the Kansas City Urban Youth Academy.

KANSAS CITY -- Two years ago, standing before the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum with a shovel and a hard hat, Dayton Moore had a grand vision for the youth of the greater Kansas City area.

That vision called for a state-of-the-art baseball, softball and education facility situated in the historic 18th and Vine District. Roll the tape forward to Thursday, when Moore's idea was realized with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that officially opened the Kansas City Urban Youth Academy.

"I wasn't sure we would ever win a championship here in Kansas City," the Royals' general manager said. "But I did know that we had a special obligation to grow the game of baseball and softball in this great city."

As time marched on and talks grew increasingly passionate about the proposed academy, Moore's commitment was unwavering.

"I said, 'We would rather have an Urban Youth Academy in Kansas City than win the World Series,'" Moore recalled. "Well, we got both."

The Kansas City Urban Youth Academy is the eighth associated with Major League Baseball. On behalf of MLB and Commissioner Rob Manfred, the project was saluted by Tony Reagins, MLB Executive Vice President of Baseball & Softball Development.

"This [facility] is all we imagined," Reagins said. "It's about coming together for the right thing -- for kids. If you can do that, the sky is the limit. This is not just about baseball and softball -- it's about enrichment and building young lives."

The sprawling complex features four outdoor turf fields, an educational press box and a 38,000-square-foot indoor facility that includes a turf infield, four batting tunnels, four classrooms and an athletic training room. The $21 million building project was completed after a groundbreaking in April 2016.

Tweet from @KC_UYA: This morning, we celebrated the official Grand Opening of the KCUYA! Special thank you to @MLB @Royals @MayorSlyJames @KCMO @KCMOParks @Populous @JEDunn and a host of donors and contributors to this amazing project! pic.twitter.com/0CSnfx9Nnf

"As we open this facility, we are going to bridge the gap in our community with the urban, suburban and rural parts of Kansas City," Moore said. "We are going to bring people together. Yes, it's the love of baseball. But it's the love of each other that makes this a special, special day."

While acknowledging the movers and shakers who pushed the massive project along, Kansas City mayor Sly James emphasized that the primary motivating force for all was a commitment to help the youth find solid footing for their journey in life.

"Leadership is a developed trait," James said. "When I am standing here, I know this place is going to develop leaders. Dayton made it very clear that if there are some people who make it to the Major Leagues, that's fantastic. If there are kids who make it to college, that's outstanding.

"And there will be some kids who none of those things will happen to. But they will all have been better for having been here, working with people who care about them, care about their character."

The Grand Opening celebration continues Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. CT. The Open House and Day of Play will feature a Western Athletic Conference softball game between the University of Missouri-Kansas City and New Mexico State University, as well as baseball games featuring local high schools and the local RBI programs. The day will also include baseball and softball instructional clinics and family activities.

Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com.

Kansas City Royals