This should be a big deal if you work in the world of youth sports facilities, which is a hot spot: sports entrepreneurs Josh Harris And David Blitzer completed a strategic investment in Ripken baseball And Cooperstown All Star Village.
Harris and Blitzer, via their family offices, announced the investment this morning. Ripken Baseball operates five baseball facilities across the United States, including four complexes that operate under the name Ripken’s experience. As part of this announcement, Harris and Blitzer announced a goal to support and accelerate Ripken’s baseball vision of bringing big league experiences to young athletes.
The couple founded Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, a sports and entertainment platform that includes the Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Devils, and the Prudential Center, While Blitzer was a former Co-Managing Partner of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (Triple-A; International League) and an investor in MLS’s Real Salt Lake. The couple renewed their commitment to creating athletic and educational opportunities for young people in the communities they serve. The Harris and Blitzer family offices, according to a press release, will sustain the growth of Ripken Baseball and Cooperstown All Star Village by investing in systems, technology and facilities.
They say the platform’s main strategy and initiative is to increase inclusion efforts across the property by creating opportunities for children to experience baseball at an early age. This includes prioritizing partnerships with organizations like the Cleveland Guardians, which will sponsor an underserved Cleveland-area team to travel to and attend the Cooperstown All Star Village this season.
“We have long believed that sports like baseball can teach young people valuable life skills on and off the field, creating a positive impact on their lives and helping them develop critical leadership skills,” Harris said in a press release. “By bringing together two great youth sports brands and partnering with Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. and his team, as well as the talented folks at Cooperstown All Star Village, we have a unique opportunity and responsibility to ensure more young people have access to these life-changing experiences.”
“By accelerating the growth of our youth baseball platform, we plan to not only improve the quality and experience of Ripken Baseball and Cooperstown All Star Village, but also to expand their reach to bring Big League experiences to a much larger number of young athletes, especially those who live,” Blitzer said in a news release. Together with Cal and Bill and the talented staff at both organizations, we’re excited about what the future holds.”
Last year, Ripken Baseball and Cooperstown All Star Village combined to host more than 15,000 teams, more than 250,000 participants and 750,000 visitors across five campuses, as well as Ripken Select courses and youth clinics across the country. Ripken Experience facilities operate in Aberdeen, Maryland; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Pigeon Forge, Tenn. and a new expansion to Kentucky, Ripken Experience Elizabethtown will begin hosting events in 2023. Cooperstown All Star Village offers families admission to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, as well as other unique on-site experiences as part of the camp’s attendance.
“I am proud of the millions of lasting memories we have created for ballplayers and their families through Ripken Baseball for over 20 years,” Cal Ripken Jr., president of Ripken Baseball, via press release. “Bill and I want to continue to pass on the lessons we learned from our dad while giving kids the Big League experience. Through this investment and long-term partnership with Josh and David, we can accelerate growth and expansion plans into sports other than baseball and softball. Josh and David share our vision for youth sports.” in America, and we are very excited about what we can achieve together in the future.”
“For nearly 20 years, Cooperstown All Star Village has provided lasting memories for more than half a million young athletes, coaches, families and friends,” said Martin Button, who co-founded Cooperstown All Star Village along with his wife, Brenda. “The positive impact on our community has put thousands of people to work and helped support hundreds of local businesses. Brenda and I are very proud and excited to partner with Josh Harris, David Blitzer, Ripkens and LionTree on this next chapter, and we look forward to growing the Cooperstown brand while continuing to Bringing the best in youth travel baseball.”
“Creating opportunities for young people to enjoy the positive benefits of baseball is not only important for the future of our game, but also for the future of our communities,” said Sarah Lerk, vice president of human resources and chief diversity officer for the Cleveland Guardians, via a press release. “Programs like those created by Cooperstown All Star Village and Ripken Baseball are essential because they give kids the tools to succeed on both the diamond and in life. We are thrilled to sponsor a trip for a team from the Cleveland area to Cooperstown All Star Village so they can have this amazing experience.”
The partnership between Harris, Blitzer and Ripkens was finalized this month and coordinated by LionTree LLC, which through a subsidiary made a significant minority investment in Ripken Baseball in 2018. Wells Fargo Bank, NA is the exclusive provider of financing for Cooperstown All Star Village and Ripken Baseball. Harris and Blitzer originally invested in the Cooperstown All Star last year.
“Cal’s commitment to positively impacting children’s lives through sports is unstoppable,” said Aryeh Burkoff, founder and CEO of LionTree and a former member of the board of directors for Ripken Baseball. “As a native of Baltimore, it has been a true honor to work alongside Cal, Billy, and the entire Ripken team for nearly five years to expand Ripken Baseball’s reach on and off the field, and I am confident that the partnership with David and Josh will increase the reach and elevate the important role youth sports in the coming years.