For siblings Rick and Jeff Odekirk, it has always been about dreaming big. The former baseball players imagined building and operating a family recreational facility that would provide average youth and adult players the feel of playing in the big leagues.
The ambitious pair hit a grand slam in 1998 with the inaugural Big League Dreams Sports Park (BLD) in Coachella Valley’s Cathedral City.
The 30-acre endeavor became an instant hit with five fields that include scaled-down versions of Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium. Each replica accommodates 175 spectators in stadium-style permanent seating. For larger competitions, up to 5,000 can catch the action in bleachers, from the Stadium Club restaurant with direct view of each field, beyond temporary fences in the outfield and along grass sideline areas.
BLD works with tournament promoters from dozens of organizations that host youth baseball, adult slow pitch softball, plus youth and collegiate fast pitch softball.
Popping up on its annual roster are a military tournament with 40 teams each May, coed World Series and elite USSSA Girls Fast Pitch tournament each October, and the USSSA Softball annual Toys 4 Tots adult slow pitch in December. The latter attracts more than 150 teams from across the U.S.
“These are the biggies, but we obviously have many more local and regional events throughout the year,” says Kevin Flora, VP of Park Operations. “We also host large group events from companies holding meetings, seminars and employee picnics, as well as birthday parties, corporate softball tournaments and weddings.”
Flora adds that one of the most prestigious annual events is the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic that’s held in three- and four-day segments during a two-week timeframe each February. Featuring 50 top NCAA Division l teams, the women’s fast pitch competition is hosted in tandem by BLD and Rizeball Enterprises.
“This has become a major economic development vehicle for the Coachella Valley,” says Flora. “More than 20,000 spectators attend each event over the course of three and four days, respectively.” In the lineup for the February 2017 edition are several 2016 Women’s College World Series squads, including the National Champion Sooners from the University of Oklahoma.
For the Classic, BLD reassembles the facility to accommodate 20 sporting goods vendors, additional bleachers, a food and beverage court, and an umpire and athletic training area. ESPN’s satellite trucks and equipment are privy to an exclusive setting where that team conducts player interviews, photography, video action shots and live streaming of all games.
BLD also hosts leagues and tournament play in a 20,000-square-foot indoor pavilion that accommodates soccer, inline hockey and basketball.
3 Replica Fields – 175-seat capacity each
2 Baseball Fields – 200-seat capacity each
Indoor Soccer Pavilion – 20,000 sq. ft., with 200-seat capacity