Athletes gather inside the new 38,000-square-foot On Deck Circle training center in Utica ahead of its grand opening to check out the new activities available to them.

Athletes gather inside the new 38,000-square-foot On Deck Circle training center in Utica ahead of its grand opening to check out the new activities available to them.

Photo provided by Jason Gendreau

Utica baseball training center, which cleaned up landfill site, opens

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published September 21, 2020


UTICA — A former unlicensed landfill contaminated with around 19 feet of garbage under the ground located at 6993 Moscone Road has seen much change since the Utica City Council first approved a request to support an application for a grant to assist with a proposed development of a new sports complex next to Jimmy John’s Field Sept. 11, 2018.

Local developers bought the property and redeveloped the land into a sports complex, On Deck Circle, with the help of a grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, formerly known as the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

EGLE supports major removal of hazardous waste and other materials that can be dangerous if not properly disposed of, and EGLE’s budget supports communities that work on projects like this one.

In order to open the complex, the developers needed to do extensive work to the property to ensure that the landfill was taken care of properly.

The project cost an estimated $2.4 million to remediate and build the proposed sports complex. The grant that was awarded was approximately $500,000 from the MDEQ to go toward the property development.

EGLE-supported efforts at the site included hazardous materials abatement, waste removal and disposal, and vapor mitigation. Efforts targeted methane contamination, among other dangerous materials. Methane from old landfills poses a high risk of vapor intrusion for future developments.

The project did not cost the Utica taxpayers anything.

When brownfields are redeveloped, property values increase on the revitalized site and can increase on other nearby properties. The previous state equalized value of the Utica property was $92,900, and it was expected to increase to $1.3 million following redevelopment.

SME engineering consultants group in Shelby Township, which helped with the site, was also involved with the construction of Jimmy John’s Field. SME specializes in environmental sites.

The new facility is located just down the road from the baseball field, which was once also a landfill.

Dave Fox, the facility manager, said the project began years ago as an idea to start a facility for athletes that parents could afford but where the athletes still could learn professional skills. He said that opening during a pandemic might be challenging, but they will be taking every step to keep players safe.

“The On Deck Circle has been a body of work that began over six years ago. Owner Jason Gendreau, had a vision of starting a baseball organization which prided itself on proper instruction, great coaching and having some of the best trainers on staff (head varsity baseball coaches, Division I college players and professional baseball players). And all of this had to be affordable for parents. I have been fortunate enough to have been with him from day one, and I truly believe we have attained those standards. In the last six years, we have outgrown four facilities and are now in what is arguably the best indoor facility in southeast Michigan. Opening during the pandemic will be challenging. We will be taking everyone’s temperature that enters the facility, along with requiring wearing of masks and having parents and players maintain social distancing,” said Fox.

The sports complex will primarily cater to baseball and softball players and teams, but it will not be limited to just those sports.

A grand opening was projected to occur in March, but due to COVID, the date had to be pushed back. The facility planned to open Sept. 13 to the public and is now open.

The new facility features a 38,000-square-foot building with eight training tunnels, a full field, 40-foot ceilings, two levels, concessions, speed and agility training on-site, and a barbershop expected to open Nov. 1. There will be tournaments from October through the end of March and training programs for middle school, high school and 6- to 11-year-olds. There will also be a quarterback school.

David Hall, a customer and coach for the Bloomfield Sting, saw the facility being built and how much has changed since before the property was being worked on. He said he looks forward to games and practices at the location.

“They have been fantastic. The facility was immediately welcoming, even before it opened. I was able to witness the turf going down firsthand, and my players were excited to see the finished product. The facility gives high-end ballplayers another reason to love the game. My players love the field conditions, and my parents like that they can see our practices and games with a safe and comfortable view. The boys feel like major leaguers there,” said Hall.

The facility will allow parents to watch the players while also social distancing.

Due to the virus outbreak, many teams were scrambling to find places for the rest of the season and On Deck Circle happened to be coming together.

“Our season was completely derailed due to COVID, and we had to organize games and practices on the fly. On Deck Circle was opened up for us and impressed our families,” Hall said.

They plan to practice two days a week now at the new facility.

“Our team loves the environment (indoors) and keeps us going even in the off season,” said Hall.

For more information on the property, call the city at (586) 739-1600.