By Tao Woolfe
As far back as Phil Terrano can remember, he’s wanted to give something back to the park that launched his career.
More than two decades after playing his last baseball game at the East Boynton Beach Little League park, Terrano — now a successful sports agent — is on the verge of seeing his dream come true.
The Boynton Beach City Commission recently gave preliminary approval to Terrano’s proposal to build an indoor training facility and add a new turf field to the 12.76-acre grounds of the park on Woolbright Road.
The commission is expected to give final approval to the project in the coming weeks.
“We are really hoping to break ground in January or February,” Terrano said in an interview. “We’d like to have it done by the end of 2023, but it would be even better if it was done by summertime.”
Terrano had proposed a 7,500-square-foot training facility, but city officials, after touring similar sites in South Florida, said they would like the building to be 12,000 square feet. The exact size of the for-profit facility has yet to be determined.
Through a partnership between Terrano and the city, the facility would offer strength and conditioning training for multiple sports, nutrition programs, batting cages, bullpen mounds, data assessment, physical therapy, chiropractic services, youth camps and scholarship programs.
The Cressey Sports Performance facility in Palm Beach Gardens offers similar services. Such specialized gyms — which cater to adult and school-age athletes willing to pay membership fees to improve their performance — are springing up around the country.
The Boynton Beach Parks and Recreation Department, as well as Building Department staff, are working on a master plan for the park that will include revamping the existing grass fields, adding T-ball and artificial turf fields, and upgrading the bathrooms and concession stands, said Kacy Young, the city’s parks and recreation director.
Terrano told the city commissioners he would like the 17 Major League Baseball players he represents to train at the site. The presence of baseball pros would provide extra incentive for Little Leaguers to be their best, as well as offer opportunities for kids to collect autographs and insider tips.
Young said he likes Terrano’s plan to have the major league players practicing alongside the Little Leaguers.
“It will be beautiful and we hope it will increase the usage of the park,” Young said. “We feel the project would be a great benefit to the entire city.”
The city acquired the park in the 1950s from the developer of High Point retirement village. It was envisioned as land that could be used eventually for expansion of the adjacent city-owned cemetery, according to city records.
By the late 1950s, however, Little League was outgrowing its original home at Galaxy Park, which had only one field, and the city decided to move league operations to Woolbright Road.
The East Boynton Beach Little League park lost its luster over the years, however, and the fields were often neglected and overgrown except for a rescue effort in 2006.
Shortly after Hurricane Wilma blew through South Florida and destroyed much of the park, the producers of the ABC home remodeling television show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition stepped in to repair the home of the 2003 national Little League champions.
The renovation included repairing the northeast fields, replacing light poles, and installing a new irrigation system, fencing, signage and batting cages. Crews also repaired the roof and interior of the concession stand.
Terrano, 44, who grew up in Boynton Beach, said he played on the fields from age 10 until he was almost 20. He later coached teams, served on the Boynton Beach Little League’s board of directors, and cooked hot dogs on weekends.
“People didn’t believe in the park and never kept it up,” Terrano said. “Volunteers did as much as they could, but most of them had full-time jobs and couldn’t be here that much.”
City officials hope this new injection of money and interest will turn things around.
Terrano, the CEO of Primetime Sports Group LLC, said he and investors he has enlisted will probably spend $3 million to $4 million to build and maintain the training facility and add the turf field. The city will do the rest and will maintain the fields, he said.
“I played here and it means a lot to me to give back,” Terrano said. “If it wasn’t for Boynton Beach Little League, I would never have gotten into a career with Major League Baseball.”
Terrano now lives in Lake Worth Beach with his wife, Shiela, and his two sons, Dylan, 11, and Dominick, 6.
The training facility will be a for-profit operation, Terrano said, but the project is as much about bringing life back to the park as it is about the money.
“It is my field of dreams,” he said. “I told the city commissioners:
“If you let me build it, they will come.”