The Play Ball Foundation is planning more than $1 million in improvements after purchasing Gladiator Park in Irvington.
It will be a labor of love for Terry Mallott and partner Brad Perreault, who formed the foundation. They are owners of the Ultimate Baseball Academy, a 55,000-square-foot indoor baseball and softball training facility at 120th and I streets.
“It’s just an opportunity to make an icon bigger, better and fresher and provide more opportunities than currently exist out there,” Mallott said.
Dugouts will be upgraded, while a concession stand, restrooms and a parking lot are planned for the north end of the park.
Two more fields will be added to the three at the 18-acre facility. All the fields will have lights, and artificial turf will be installed on some.
Improvements will start in the spring, but most will have to wait until baseball season is over in mid-July.
The name of the facility will change to The Yard.
Mallott said his goal is to see as many boys and girls playing as possible.
“My dream is to impact Gladiator Park and then impact other baseball and softball fields across the city of Omaha,” he said.
The Ultimate Baseball Academy already runs the adult softball leagues at Seymour Smith and Kelley Softball Complexes, and upgrades also are planned at those parks.
“The nicer we can make the playing fields everybody plays on ... that’s what our passion is,” Mallott said. “We want to sit back 20 years from now and have something special.
“Not just Gladiator Park. We’ll go where the need is and do what we can to help.”
The Gladiator program will continue to compete at the park, but other organizations are welcome. Eventually, the UBA Bandit organization will play there.
Mallott grew up playing baseball. He coached for the Gladiators, and he and Perreault watched their children play at the facility, which has been around since the 1980s.
“I think baseball and softball are sports that teach young men and women life lessons that they can’t get doing anything else,” he said.
The foundation doesn’t expect to make money, because baseball parks are cost-prohibitive. They hope to gain help with their goals through grants, corporate sponsorships and the contributions of private citizens.
Others on the group’s five-person board are Omaha businessman Les Robbins; Shawn Buchanan, who played at Nebraska and in the White Sox organization; and Creighton baseball coach Ed Servais.
At the start, the financial burden will be on Mallott and Perreault.
“Our wives think we’re crazy,” Mallott said.
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