Akron Racers Charities unveiled plans Wednesday to make $1.5 million in improvements to the Firestone Stadium complex.
The project calls for an indoor training center, a new concession featuring barbecue, a two-story clubhouse, a brick-paved courtyard and picnic area, and changes to the fields.
“This has been in the works for a long, long time,” Akron Racers Charities founder and President Joey Arrietta said.
The group plans to raise the needed money through donations. The work is expected to get underway in September after the Akron Racers’ season ends.
The city-owned Firestone Stadium, located along South Main Street in Akron’s Firestone Park neighborhood, is home to the professional Akron Racers softball team. It has hosted local, regional, state and national events, and drawn thousands of visitors to the city.
Akron Racers Charities plans to own the new training center and clubhouse, and get a land-lease deal from the city.
The project goal is to give back to the community and provide an opportunity for young girls and women to learn and play softball, Arrietta said.
“Sports certainly are a catalyst for life lessons beyond the diamond,” she said. “We feel what we’re doing is in the best interest of young girls and women.”
The 80-by-160-foot indoor facility is the centerpiece of the project and will feature all turf inside. It will allow players to train year-round without worrying about the Northeast Ohio weather.
The building — which the group hopes to open in January — will feature four batting cages, two pitching lanes and a regulation infield. It will be available to coaches and players for rent, and camps and clinics featuring Akron Racers players are being planned.
“The plan is to train young people to play,” Arrietta said.
Rates and team packages are expected to be announced in September.
There also are changes coming to the actual fields. The group will add a permanent, 6-foot fence in the main outfield, and add a third field on the property to accommodate more fast-pitch games.
Akron Racers season ticket-holder Don Martukovich, 61, of Garfield Heights, who attended the announcement, praised the plan.
A former high school coach, Martukovich said he’s especially excited about the facility providing another sports opportunity for girls.
“I saw it all the time how they got the short end of things,” he said. “It’s about time.”
Akron Racers Charities also is exploring whether it can install the former LED scoreboard once used at Canal Park, home of the Akron RubberDucks, at Firestone Stadium.
“It would be a huge, huge complement to this facility,” Arrietta said.
The group will kick off its fundraising activities on July 1, when it starts selling inscribed brick pavers for $100.
Those pavers will be installed in the Champions Courtyard.
Akron Racers Charities also will hold a Diamond Casino Night from 7 to 10 p.m. July 10 at Summit County Veterans Services, 1060 E. Waterloo Road. Tickets are $75.