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Cubs roll out plans for training center in the Dominican Republic

Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts talks with reporters before a baseball game between the Cubs and the Milwaukee Brewers, Wednesday, June 15, 2011, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The Cubs will open within 18 months a new baseball academy in the Dominican Republic that will encompass 50 acres with facilities for baseball training, housing and an educational center.

Team chairman Tom Ricketts, some of his family and Cubs staff were in La Gina, Dominican Republic, on Thursday to unveil plans that have been in the works since the family acquired the team three years ago. The facility will feature four fields (one with artificial turf), four covered batting cages, eight bullpens, a weight room, cafeteria and kitchen, two locker rooms, two meetings rooms and a large classroom that can be divided into four smaller rooms, with a theatre and video room.

An on-site dormitory will accommodate up to 80 players and eight staff members.

Players from around the world and Latin America will have use of the facility, including major leaguers in the offseason. English and Spanish will be taught to players and personnel. Players also will be able to earn GED high school equivalency degrees.

The Ricketts recently made a donation to the Institute for Latin American Concern, a collaborative health care and educational organization in the Dominican Republic. They also helped in funding a clinic focusing on reducing hypertension and diabetes in northern Dominican Republic.

The project will open construction jobs immediately and future jobs at the academy when it is ­completed.