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City OKs Plan for Baseball Academy

March 29, 2003|From a Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Planning Commission approved plans this week for Major League Baseball to build a baseball academy for disadvantaged youths on the site of a former landfill in Arleta.

The $10-million academy, which would provide sports and educational classes to an estimated 2,000 youths a year, was originally slated for the Hansen Dam Recreation Area in Lake View Terrace, but met with opposition from local residents who said they feared it would use up too much open space. There were also concerns about the safety of nearby power lines.

City Council President Alex Padilla said the new site, a 41-acre former landfill closed in 1974, would allow the city to get the first in a national network of baseball academies.

"I'm ecstatic about the commission's decision," Padilla said. "I think it's one of the final major milestones to breaking ground on the project."

Padilla said the Bureau of Sanitation is testing the area to confirm that methane gas will not threaten health and safety.

"We will not move forward if those concerns are not addressed," he said, "but it's our belief that they can be mitigated."

Students who participate in the academy will get access to free classes on playing, coaching and grounds keeping. Major League Baseball plans to contribute $3 million to the construction of the academy, and $1 million a year for its operations. Other funding would come from the city and state.

The city will provide the land to the academy rent-free and, in return, will have access to the program's five regulation-size baseball and softball fields for recreational programs.

Barring an appeal by opponents of the project to the City Council, construction on the academy could begin in June, with the program slated to begin in the fall of 2004.

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