Ballparks of Branson is still building.

Since its opening in July, Ballparks of Branson has had about 40 teams from across the country play on its replica fields, but Ballparks of America CEO Hamilton Chang said there are still many exciting amenities in the works.

Replicas of Wrigley Field and Tiger Stadium have been completed, while Busch Stadium, Ebbets Field and Fenway Park replicas are still underway. Chang said Busch Stadium will hopefully be finished by October “God and weather willing.”

The Big League Suites, dormitories for players and coaches, are also almost complete with technology being installed and new bunk beds being built each day, Chang said.

As this year’s baseball season is coming to a close, Ballparks still has plenty of preparation time for next season. This fall, Chang said there will be weekend softball tournaments as well as Baseball Youth Organization weekend events, so the $24 million youth baseball complex will not be entirely closed the rest of the year.

Big plans are in store for the future of Ballparks. Chang said out of the eight buildings, 1.5 of them will be for retail. Some possible stores and activities those buildings could include are a cupcake shop, a restaurant and art venue, an indoor bowling alley, an indoor rock climbing wall, an indoor golf driving range, indoor batting cages and a day spa, according to Chang. He said these are shops and activities that not only the players can enjoy after games, but, also “Things that would resonate with 40-year-old parents. Somewhere after the game, you want to give the kids something to do while the parents sort of hang out in air conditioning and enjoy a good burger.”

Chang said Ballparks is looking for businesses to partner with in the area to set up activities and stores.

“So we’re looking for partners, entrepreneurs in the area who see the vision and understand that youth baseball is a huge draw,” Chang said.

Next season, Chang said they are expecting all five fields to be up and running where 40 teams, or 600 players will play tournaments per week.

Testimonials from coaches and parents have been uploaded to the Ballparks’ website, Chang said.

“We’re loading testimonials up on the website every week and people are emailing us with testimonials, so we’re getting those out,” Chang said.

The testimonials have been “resounding,” Chang said.

“One coach said, ‘It will be the best place your 12-year-old will play this year,’ and then he stops, (and said), ‘Honestly, it could be the best place your child will ever play in their lives,’” Chang said.

“And we love that this is meant to be about baseball, friendships and family.”

Rep. Billy Long

A guest stopped by Ballparks Thursday for a tour. Rep. Billy Long said he has heard about this project from day one.

“I’ve heard about this project since it was just, you know, a twinkle in somebody’s eye and I can’t believe what it’s turning into,” Long said.

Long said since the shops left the former Red Roof Mall, it has become a white elephant.

“It was donated to the city of Branson and (the city) needed something to do with it,” Long said.

He said he has a good feeling about the progress Ballparks is making.

“I’ve got a very, very good gut feeling this is going to work,” Long said.

“I’m very impressed with what they’re doing, (and) how they’re doing it.”

He said he likes how everything is already set up and designed.

“It’s really a blessing for the Branson area. It’s a family area, it’s a family sport; we’re talking about 10, 11, 12, 13-year-old folks coming out here playing.”

“It’s exciting and I’m very impressed,” Long said.

While Long did not talk much of his current campaign to be re-elected into the Missouri House of Representatives, he did share his opinion on the presidential race. Billy Long endorsed Republican hopeful Donald Trump well before the Republican convention when he was officially chosen as the party’s candidate. Since then, when polls showed Trump relatively even with Democrat Hillary Clinton, a series of controversial statements and shakeups in his campaign have left Trump trailing in the polls. Despite the trend, Long said he still supports his endorsement for Trump.

“I think that the things that are happening in Washington D.C., people are extremely upset with. We’re $19 trillion in debt,” Long said.

“The same people that got us the shape we’re in today don’t want Donald Trump on my side of the aisle. They’re afraid of change; they’re afraid he’ll actually come in and do the right thing and cut spending and protect this country.

“He’s going to protect our family, our children, us, and he’s going to bring jobs back to America and that’s why I support him,” Long said.

Long fended off several challengers in the Aug. 5 primary election and will face Democrat Genevieve Williams in the Nov. 8 general election.

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