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$6M project to add five fields of dreams to Baltimore neighborhoods

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Got a vacant lot of a certain size in your neighborhood? Then the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation may have designs on it. The organization, through its Swing for the Future project, plans to build multi-purpose, low maintenance Youth Development Parks in the city. The project, estimated at $6 million, will build state-of-the-art ballparks sporting artificial turf with a track and exercise stations, in five low-income neighborhoods throughout the city.

The first park will transform the unused property on the former Memorial Stadium site on 33rd Street. Foundation officials have joined with partners within the community to raise the $1.5 million needed to repurpose the vacant field. The Y of Central Maryland has teamed with the CRSF on the Stadium Place field. The Y will run the park which has been designed as a kid-scale replica of Memorial Stadium.

"The purpose is to give kids a safe and healthy place to interact and play. After we raise the mix of private and public funding, we will give the facility to a local community partner. We are using Baltimore as a model so we can take it to other cities and help kids all across country," says John Maroon, CRSF spokesman.

Early planning has already begun for a $1 million project in Park Heights near Pimlico Race Course. The partnership between CRSF, the Boys and Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore and the city's Department of Recreation will be completed in 2011.

Three other sites will be selected in East Baltimore, West Baltimore and one as-of-yet undecided location in the city. Community groups will operate the parks offering neighborhood kids the chance to play baseball, football and other sports as well as the CRSF's baseball-centric character development programs.

Depending on the organizations ability raise the needed funding for the parks, the goal is to open one park a year. So far, donations have raised roughly 50 percent of the $1.5 million needed to build and fund programming for the Stadium Place park.

Source: John Maroon, CRSF
Writer: Walaika Haskins

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