There aren’t many children who can say they’ve gotten to stand on Wrigley Field’s home plate or Busch Stadium’s pitcher’s mound. By next summer, a new youth baseball complex will give them that opportunity.
Branson, Mo., soon will be the home of Ballparks of America, Branson, scheduled to open by late May 2015 at the site of a former outlet mall. The project is the dream of Hamilton Chang, a father of four youth baseball players and CEO of Ballparks of America, Branson.
The complex will be composed of two-thirds scale replicas of several famous American baseball stadiums and fields. The facility will have overnight lodging for traveling teams, state-of-the-art locker rooms and other amenities and will host national and international teams alike. The goal is to give youth athletes and their families a one-of-a-kind tournament experience that doubles as a family vacation.
“Branson is kind of this quiet gem in the southwest corner of Missouri. ... For a baseball tournament or youth sports facility, it was absolutely ideal,” Mr. Chang says.
One of the city’s main draws is its location. Mr. Chang says one of the main youth tournament facilities in Cooperstown, N.Y., not only is overbooked, but it’s a long trip for anyone not from the East Coast. By contrast, Branson is a one-day drive for about a third of the United States, making it easier for families to reach their destination. It also means parents will miss less work for being on the road.
Another reason Mr. Chang and his associates chose Branson is because it’s a popular tourist destination. Professional golf courses, great fishing waters, amusement and water parks, music and theater entertainment venues, restaurants and hotels for all price points make it an attractive option for family members who tag along for tournaments.
“We want to make it a tournament you want to go to, that you want to send your kids to. If you also can make it into a vacation for rest of the family, why wouldn’t you do that?” Mr. Chang says.
“The siblings won’t be bored to tears at the IHOP at the highway intersection,” he adds, noting the lack of entertainment at other youth sports destinations.
Mr. Chang says giving children the opportunity to compete in elite youth sports can be a financial strain, so he hopes visitors to Ballparks of America, Branson, can accomplish several goals at a single location: spend less time traveling, enjoy affordable meal and hotel options, participate in vacation activities and get the chance to experience their favorite baseball stadiums up close.
“It’s just meant to be that once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s not just for the kids ... it’s meant to be a memory for the entire family that will last their lifetimes,” he says.
For more information, visit ballparksofamerica.com.