A 10-acre empty expanse in Chicago’s North Austin neighborhood that has been vacant for three decades will become a sports center for kids in the fall of 2022.
The dirt- and weed-filled land on North Laramie Avenue used to be the site of a paint factory, but by next fall it will offer sports, education, and wellness programs for kids and adults in the Austin community. The 150,000-square-foot center will house a baseball field, indoor and outdoor soccer fields, and a By the Hand Kids Club.
Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward and his family were among those on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony of the $31 million project in mid-August. Building is proceeding with donations from Heyward, the Chicago Fire Foundation, Intentional Sports, and others. The complex is expected to serve more than 25,000 people annually and will feature the Jason Heyward Baseball Academy, a FIFA-regulation turf arena for indoor sports, and fitness and mental health programs. The facility will serve as a hub for the Chicago Fire Foundation’s community outreach programs, including 20 hours per week of free soccer programs. The hope is for the facility to support 75 permanent jobs, as well as camps, tournaments, and adult leagues that will help generate revenue to sustain the complex.
In addition to the sports programs, By the Hand will offer a club that serves 400 students — its sixth such program on Chicago’s South and West sides. By the Hand is a faith-centered after-school program that has offered activities for children since it first formed in 2001.
“This is better than the first day of school, first day of being a Major Leaguer,” said Heyward, who has been involved with By the Hand in other projects. “Because you see the vision, you see the dream.”