International Baseball Partners issued an update on Project 421, a proposed professional baseball academy structure targeted for the Island of Curacao. IBP President, Mike Powers, in an interview said despite setbacks, the project has found new momentum for 2019.
Q: What is the status for Project 421 in Curacao?
A: “I just returned from Curacao after meeting with several government and business leaders the first week of the new year. The meetings went well and there is a renewed commitment from the government to make 421 a reality. We’ve added several people to the project to lend additional ideas and expert advice in order to bring it all to fruition.”
Q: Is Major League Baseball still interested in the academy structure outside the Dominican Republic?
A: “IBP had discussions with several MLB organizations during the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada in December. While there were no formal agreements, the interest still remains. We were told that the need for a strategic locale near Venezuela remains high and has only increased since the crisis in that area began.”
Q: Are there other places Project 421 could find as a home besides Curacao?
A: “Yes, but we remain steadfast for Curacao. Our first M.O.U (Memorandum of Understanding) with the government goes back to 2015, so we would love to finish what we began. Of course, we need more than constructive conversations to get it accomplished. We believe we have a good mix of private investment and political continuity to get us over the hurdle. But, we also know there is a push in other parts of the region to construct something similar. So, time is a wasting asset in this regard.”
Q: What would a professional academy structure mean to the island of Curacao and its citizens?
A: “Well, I can point you to the direct and indirect impact baseball academies have had in the Dominican Republic. MLB estimates teams spend roughly $125 million a year on its 30 academies in the D.R., and that’s after paying an additional $200 million in signing bonuses to young Dominican players. You can also consider another $400 million paid to Dominican major leaguers. And by the way, those players buy houses and cars in their home areas and really infuse the economy. So, it’s easy to reach close to a half-billion US dollars that is generated on the island. That’s not even counting the many involved in training players and employees in the academies themselves which employ on average 30 Dominicans. Another huge factor that should be considered is the sports tourism impact. Baseball is growing internationally and baseball tourists are creating new opportunities for countries to design a specific message to attract this burgeoning tourist market.”
Q: When can people expect the project to be shovel ready?
A: “Right now, we are identifying the land and finishing the financials for a formal agreement. Really, it’s up to the government to make it a priority on their calendar and after speaking with several government officials we feel very good about the political will to get it done. I will add that IBP has worked hard to show that Curacao is ready to take the next step in realizing Project 421.”