Cold and rainy weather Thursday did not stop the celebratory groundbreaking of the new Ripken Experience Pigeon Forge.
Ripken Baseball and officials from the City of Pigeon Forge held a groundbreaking ceremony Nov. 13, 2014 for Ripken Experience Pigeon Forge, a $22.5 million youth baseball complex.
Major League Baseball Hall of Famer & Chairman and Founder of Ripken Baseball, CAL RIPKEN, JR., was on site to kick off the groundbreaking.
“We are thrilled to officially break ground on the new Ripken Experience complex,” said Cal Ripken, Jr. “The City of Pigeon Forge is an excellent location for our new facility, and soon, this ground will be home to thousands of young ballplayers running, playing and competing. We all look forward to that day.”
Also participating were Ripken Baseball’s President, TIM LEWIS; Mayor of the City of Pigeon Forge, DAVID WEAR; City Manager, City of Pigeon Forge, EARLENE M. TEASTER; and Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, SUSAN WHITAKER.
Ripken Experience Pigeon Forge will feature six lighted synthetic turf fields, each based on the design of well-known professional ballparks such as Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Isotopes Stadium and BB&T Ballpark. In addition, the facility will have a two-level clubhouse with more than 14,000 square feet and a 2,749-square-foot concession/restroom building with an adjacent pavilion. It will host elite youth baseball tournaments nine months of the year, and offer year-round branded programming, including events.
Earlier this year the Pigeon Forge City Commission approved $26 million in bonds to help pay for the project’s construction and the City of Pigeon Forge signed a 10-year contract with Ripken Baseball to market and manage the complex.
It is expected to be a tournament destination for 9-and 10-year-old tournament baseball, bringing players and their families from across the country. Pigeon Forge with its array of attractions, lodging and dining will offer visiting ballplayers and their families a vacation experience beyond the baseball complex.
“Youth sports is an almost $9 billion industry in the U.S., and the Ripken Experience Pigeon Forge will steer some of that business to us. For several years, we have hosted summertime softball tournaments at our city park and have seen the impact of sports. However, this investment by the city means we’re taking youth sports to a totally new level. Teaming up with Cal and Bill Ripken puts us on the map immediately,” said Pigeon Forge Mayor David Wear.
Opening Day at the Ripken Experience Pigeon Forge is planned for Spring 2016.
The Ripken Experience Pigeon Forge is the third youth baseball facility by Ripken Baseball. The Ripken Experience Aberdeen powered by Under Armour is located in the Maryland hometown of brothers Cal Ripken, Jr. and Bill Ripken. It hosts the 12-year-old Cal Ripken World Series in which ten teams from around the world compete for a World Championship title each summer. A popular beach vacation destination, the Ripken Experience Myrtle Beach features elite baseball and softball competition for 13- to 18-year-olds and is a spring training facility for college and high school teams.
Photo Credit: Edward C. Foley for Ripken Baseball, Inc.