A new building is going up just south of Pequot Lakes, and it is one that will cater to younger athletes throughout the lakes area.
Pequot Lakes resident Kent Johnson is establishing the Young Athletes Reaching Dreams (YARD) facility just south of Tasty Pizza in Pequot Lakes.
Once completed, the YARD will initially serve as a training facility for baseball and softball players. The roughly 70-foot-by-50-foot building will feature two batting cages and plenty of open space of field turf to take drills and practice indoors when the weather does not cooperate, as is often the case in the early weeks of the baseball and softball season. Athletes will be able to rent time at the facility to practice or pay for coaching sessions to improve techniques.
"We want to give the youth (of the area) a chance," Johnson said. "People in Minneapolis and bigger cities are given more opportunities to do this and we just want to bring that to the area."
Though the main focus of the facility is to cater to younger athletes, it is not the sole focus. In addition to baseball and softball training areas, the YARD will also feature a pickleball court. Prior to laying the groundwork on the facility, Johnson had never heard of the sport.
"When all the younger kids are in school, we will be able to have the older people in the area play pickleball, because we found out there is actually a demand for pickleball in the Pequot area," Johnson said. "We don't want to just focus on baseball and softball and then no one is there from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. because they are all in school. "
Construction on the facility is currently underway, with posts up and a foundation soon to be laid. Johnson's hope is to have the facility completed two months from now
"If the weather stays decent, we are trying to be open mid-January so we can get a good practice in this winter still," Johnson said. "That's what our goal is, whether that is realistic or not."
In addition to serving the community, Johnson has been in talks with Central Lakes College and CLC baseball coach Brian Voigt to establish this facility in such a way that can cater to the Raiders' needs.
"We will have it where people can either use the batting cages by themselves, or they can set up for coaching instructions so they are not just in there hitting away and developing bad habits. They can have an hour-long coaching session - maybe just that one time - so they can work on technique and then come in and do that on their own or maybe take several sessions and keep working with that coach."
He has also talked to the community education departments of Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus to see if they can use the YARD.
"We want to help the area out," Johnson said. "We are not focused strictly on the Pequot area. We want everyone in the area to be helped by this."
Johnson hopes to have a coffee shop set up in the front of the building as well, as "something for the moms and dads to do" while their children are practicing or receiving instruction.
In the future, Johnson would not rule out expanding the facility's function to include other sports - particularly golf - but will take the public's input into account.
"It all depends on the use of the facility. If we don't have time for anything else, that is what this building is stuck at ... We are kind of in the experimental phase. No one has done anything like this up here. There hasn't really been any negativity toward it.
Once we get in there and see what we can fill with it, that is what we are going to do ... We will let the community dictate what goes into it and what they want out of it."