New sports “bunker” underway downtown

Adam Helmick and Robert Ellison stand near a pitching machine in the Doherty Baseball Academy new's training facility at 704 Avenue G. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

FORT MADISON – The Doherty Baseball Academy is taking another step to rebuild youth athletic programs in Fort Madison.

The group recently entered into a lease agreement with Barker Financial Group to open a facility in the old Sear’s building at 704 Avenue G.

Kyle Doherty, the founder of the academy, said after a youth workout at the Baxter Sports Complex in September, some people were milling about and Wes Holtkamp, who manages the property for Barkers, said he had some space available.

“I came down the next day and he showed me this,” Doherty said. “There was enough room, and the drop ceilings could be taken out for overhead clearance. We think it’s a great fit for what we’re trying to do.”

On Oct. 1 the lease was signed. In just three weeks walls have been taken down and rebuilt, floor plans have been changed, ceilings have been pulled, and duct work and electrical renovations have taken place.

Most of the equipment and technology was already a part of the academy, but now the group is looking for funding to help get the facility ready for training including spray foaming ceilings to allow for the hitting bays and indoor/outdoor carpeting.

Just those two improvements alone will cost the group about $14,000 but Doherty said he’s trying to keep the cost under $10,000.

“Obviously we’re all full-time working dads and we don’t have working capital to come in and do things the way we want to do it,” said Adam Helmick, a member of the DBA board and a coach.

“I just want to see the youth of Fort Madison grow and get better at the things they want to do and right now it’s hard,” Helmick said.
“They can’t just go into (Tony) Johnson’s (facility) on their own and hit or pitch or swing. That’s what we’re trying to do – provide that for them.”

Doherty said Johnson and the Fort Madison School District have been extremely helpful in providing facilities for skills work. He said this facility will give the academy a place where kids can come anytime, without working it into the busy schedules of the other groups.

“The big reason why we did this is we wanted a place that we would have full control of. We wanted to offer a few more things and have a full range of scheduling,” Doherty said.

He said he envisions the facility being used for all youth sports and even having different stations where different sport drills could be going on at the same time.

“I see us having kids in here hitting and throwing, or having teams in for practice sessions and then soccer going on in the back. We have plenty of room and we plan on using every square foot of this area,” Doherty said.

Robert Ellison, another board member and coach in the DBA system, said he just wants to give youth a place to go.

“When this is up and running I envision at any point, if any kid in general were to call me at midnight and say they want to get out of the house and work out or just mess around. I would be down here in a heart beat,” Ellison said.

“My vision is we get this up and running and kids aren’t stuck in the house come January. They can come down here, and I don’t care if it’s running in circles, it gets them out of the house.”

Doherty said there will likely be a membership for usage of the facility to help offset costs, but he wants to keep those minimal so every family can participate.

“We’ll have memberships to offer and one-on-one private lessons. After this month, that’s where a lot of our revenue will come from,” he said.

“We’re still asking for donations for certain things we need to get things put in place, but other than that the majority will be lessons and group stuff.”

Doherty said he plans on being at the facility every night

“My vision is to utilize the crap out of this place to build and structure youth all the way up to college and even beyond,” he said.

“They can come down here and work out on their schedule and get instruction. We’re very serious about the development of the youth and every athlete we can get our hands on.”

The DBA isn’t a 501c(3) organization yet, but they do plan on getting that designation. Ellison said that’s part of the organizational structure they are still unfamiliar with.

“That’s stuff we don’t know about yet. We’re just blue collar workers that have a huge passion for the game,” Ellison said.

Anyone wishing to donate time or financial support can contact Doherty, Ellison, or Helmick or donate via the groups Venmo account at @DohertyBaseballAcademy.

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