TOLEDO (WTOL) - Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz announced on Monday that Danny Thomas Park will receive a $2 million investment that will bring a “world-class, best-industry standard” sports complex to the park.
“It’s such an exciting day for Toledo. A $2 million dollar investment is being made into this neighborhood. ... This project is transformative,” Kapszukiewicz said. “The state of Ohio certainly stepped up. The city of Toledo has been involved, of course. So has private philanthropy. ... And Major League Baseball itself is making a significant donation to this initiative.”
The city of Toledo, together with the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, announced the plans to design and construct a new youth development park located in the Old South End neighborhood that will feature a 75,000-square-foot multisport synthetic turf field used for football, soccer, and baseball/softball and provide local youth with a safe outdoor place to play.
“Cal Ripken is one of the most iconic names in the history of baseball, so any program that has his name on it will be excellent,” Kapszukiewicz said. “We are committed to providing more and better recreational opportunities for Toledo, and being able to do that while also helping to revitalize one of our historic neighborhoods, is truly a grand slam.”
The Ripken Foundation facility at Danny Thomas Park will serve as the central location for the YMCA of Greater Toledo and The Believe Center programs. Local youth organizations will serve thousands of at-risk youth who are exposed to high-risk factors, such as above-average crime rates, families living below the poverty line, and a high number of children being raised in single-parent homes.
Afterschool programming, such as organized team sports, is a powerful alternative during widely unsupervised time between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Research suggests 29 percent of all violent crime committed by juvenile offenders occurs during those hours.
Cal Ripken Jr. is going to come to the ribbon cutting and throw out the first pitch, the mayor said.
The complex is expected to be in place by late next summer.
“This the public-private partnership we talk about so often, but rarely see achieved. I believe we see it here,” the mayor said.
Kapszukiewicz said the sports complex is key to giving kids in the community positive ways to spend their time.
“For children in our community, ... kids struggle to have positive choices and positive ways to spend their time. This will provide a world-class, best-industry standard complex that will allow them to play baseball and soccer,” the mayor said.
“Twenty-nine percent of all violent crime committed by juveniles is in a 3 p.m.-6 p.m window. ... It’s a crucial time and we can’t do enough to provide positive options.”
Republican State Sen. Randy Gardner also gave remarks on the project, on which he worked with Democratic State Rep. Michael Sheehy to help secure grant money.
“One of my favorite things to do in the legislature is to reach across the aisle and reach across the river. I live in Bowling Green, but we know this will make a difference in the lives of children in our communities,” Gardner said. “... This is a celebration of what’s right when we work together.”
The catalyst for this project was a $400,000 State of Ohio capital grant awarded to Historic South Initiative in 2017. The Ripken Foundation Youth Development Park will be located at the upper level of Danny Thomas Park, and the city of Toledo is making plans for the subsequent renovation of the lower level of Danny Thomas Park using the proceeds of the state capital grant.
There are 82 different Ripken facilities across the United States, and this will be the only one in Ohio.