CHICAGO – University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) alum and current New York Yankee centerfielder Curtis Granderson has pledged the funding for a new multi-million dollar baseball stadium on the campus of UIC. The facility will be home for Flames Baseball, but more importantly, is intended to serve area youth and the Chicago community. Partnerships with Major League Baseball (MLB), Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and various youth organizations will provide access to the aptly named “Curtis Granderson Stadium” for a multitude of events.
“We are grateful to Curtis for his generosity, which will impact UIC baseball and our student-athletes for generations,” said UIC Athletic Director Jim Schmidt. “Curtis is once again demonstrating his strong core values in assisting the youth of Chicago. He is a special person and a great representative for UIC.”
Granderson announced his gift at the inaugural Diamond Dinner hosted by UIC Baseball where his No. 28 Flames jersey was retired. The contribution is expected to be the largest gift in UIC Athletics history and also one of the most generous donations on record for the University.
“Being a baseball player is such a small piece of who Curtis really is as a person,” said UIC Head Baseball Coach Mike Dee. “I think this gift demonstrates where his heart is and his sense of social responsibility. I’m really proud of him as a person and I’m proud he came from this program.”
Curtis Granderson Stadium will play host to numerous youth league games throughout the spring and summer, providing youngsters with an opportunity to compete in a first-class and safe environment. A variety of coaching and officiating clinics will also be offered at the facility.
MLB’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) and Urban Youth Academy (UYA) programs will be chief partners for Granderson’s youth initiative. Since its inception in 1989, RBI has established more than 300 programs in over 200 cities around the world and welcomes roughly 200,000 male and female participants to play baseball and softball each year. More than 200 former RBI participants have been drafted by MLB clubs over the years, including 14 in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. Granderson’s Yankee teammate, C.C. Sabathia, is an alum of the RBI Program.
“There are a lot of people in the community that are in the same situation I was in 15 to 20 years ago,” said Granderson. “Now, I am in a position where I have the ability to help kids pursue whatever dreams they have, whether they are educational, athletic or just life in general. I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to team up with UIC, which has helped me get to where I am today.”
MLB and its 30 clubs have designated more than $30 million to RBI. UIC has forged working relationships with the Chicago Cubs and White Sox to expand each of their on-going RBI programs.
The UIC administration will also be involved with the RBI program to inject an educational component, expounding on the university’s sense of responsibility to contribute to the well-being of urban life. UIC’s history of implementing educational programs for at-risk youth will be invoked to mesh with the life skills programming under the RBI and UYA models.
“The educational aspect is important to me, and it’s all going to take place right here in the inner-city,” said Granderson. “We have diversity, minorities and it’s all under a university setting.”
Construction for the new stadium is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2013 with a two-year timetable. It will feature approximately 1,200 chair-back seats and two grassy berms for spectator seating. The structure style will be an open air brick and stone clad ballpark that allows for flexibility and easy pedestrian movement. In addition there will be one level of disability seating and another level with enhanced press amenities.
“I started playing baseball when I was six years old and friendships I had at that point I still have today,” said Granderson. “You learn teamwork, leadership, discipline and also how to fail and succeed – things you don’t realize at the time how beneficial they are going to be moving forward. You’re going to have to set goals and work hard to accomplish them. That’s what baseball has done for me, and hopefully that’s what baseball will do for the youth in Chicago.”