Editor’s note: Bank of America is a financial partner of Startland News, although this report was created independently by the nonprofit newsroom.
A historic age of impact is under way, said Bob Kendrick, as Kansas City’s Negro Leagues Baseball Museum unveiled plans for a new, state-of-the art campus backed by a $1 million grant from Bank of America.
“Our growth from a one-room office to becoming America’s National Negro Leagues Baseball Museum has been an amazing journey. Now, we’re building an organization that will continue to preserve and celebrate the triumphant story of the Negro Leagues — but also fortify our position as one of the nation’s most important civil rights and social justice institutions,” said Kendrick, who serves as the president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
Officials made the announcement Tuesday at the museum’s current site in the historic 18th and Vine District, noting Bank of America’s $1 million contribution kicks off a $25 million capital campaign. The museum effort is expected to culminate with a new 30,000-square-foot facility, which is set to be located nearby — next to the former Paseo YMCA, now the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center.
RELATED: From abandoned artifact to new Negro Leagues’ space: Why renovated Paseo YMCA now bears the name ‘Buck O’Neil’
“We share NLBM’s mission to preserve and celebrate the rich history of African American baseball and its impact on the social advancement of America,” said Matt Linski, president of Bank of America Kansas City. “Our commitment recognizes the importance — culturally and economically — of the 18th & Vine District to Kansas City today, and we hope it will be an example for other funders to follow. Additionally, this grant is paramount to ensuring greater understanding and better appreciation of the many contributions African Americans have made, and continue to make, including Jackie Robinson breaking the Major League color barrier.”
The funding will allow the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum to expand programming, create dynamic interactive displays, house a gallery to showcase new exhibitions, feature a larger gift shop and include a more expansive archival and storage space.
Click here to donate to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum campaign and learn more about the facility.
Keeping Kansas City’s Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in the 18th & Vine Disrtict was crucial to preserving its history, Kendrick noted.
“We had a historical, social and civil responsibility to build this museum right where it is at historic 18th & Vine,” Kendrick said. “That is still the spirit we carry. … The spirit of the Negro Leagues continues to drive and do exactly what Negro Leagues Baseball did for urban communities across this country — because wherever you ask successful Black baseball, you typically have thriving Black economies. So not only is Bank of America investing in this museum, but it is also investing in this community right alongside this museum.”
The new facility was designed by Pendulum — a Kansas City, Missouri-based architectural practice that specializes in the design and documentation of sports facilities, mixed-use development, boutique and commercial projects.
“I hope what you see from this design is, as much as it is about history and the past, it’s also about the future,” said Jonathan O’Neil Cole, the founding principal at Pendulum. “I didn’t know how Bob [Kendrick] was going to feel about the design when we showed it to him. He was like, ‘Man, that’s the cutting edge.’ And that’s exactly what we wanted.”
Click here to read more about Pendulum.
Kendrick, Linski and O’Neil Cole were joined alongside U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Missouri; Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas; Frank White, Jr., Jackson County Executive; Kathy Nelson, president and CEO of Kansas City Sports Commission; and John Sherman, chairman and CEO of Kansas City Royals.
“This will be something that will truly be special for generations to come,” Lucas shared. “… When we think of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, we think of the stories of this community, the positivity that so many people helped exhibit through times of [adversity] and frankly the stories that we need to continue to share to children in this region, around country and around the world.”
To coincide with the Bank of America’s commitment of the new museum, Major League Baseball alumni players David DeJesus, Rajai Davis and Dexter Fowler will take part in a Bank of America “Play It Forward” baseball clinic Saturday, May 6 at the YMCA of Greater Kansas City. The Clinic coincides with the celebration of the winning spirit of the Kansas City Monarchs and is held on the anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first game with the team.