KANSAS CITY , Mo. - The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum wants to expand its mission so that it may become an international tourist destination.
On Wednesday, the museum will ask Kansas City Council members to approve $500,000 in public funds to renovate the historic Paseo YMCA building and turn it into an education and research center.
The Paseo YMCA was one of the only recreation centers for blacks in Kansas City in the early 1900s.
The building was built in 1914, and in 1920 it would become the birthplace of the Negro Leagues. Eight minority baseball team owners signed documents there, creating the Negro National League.
Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, said the league was founded "based on one simple principle: You won't let me play with you in the major leagues, then I'll create a league of my own. That league was created here in Kansas City in 1920, thus becoming a very independent rival to Major League Baseball."
It is an historic place, located in the 18th and Vine Jazz District and owned by the nearby Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. The league created there gave now-legendary figures like Buck O'Neil, Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Monarchs a chance.
The Paseo YMCA closed in the 1970s, but the late John "Buck" O'Neil hoped to reopen it as an education center to house the league's documents. But Buck died in 2006, time passed and funds fell short.
The museum hopes public funds will jump start O'Neil's dream. Kendrick said. "(It's) positioning our organization as the international headquarters for Negro Leagues and social history," he said.
Kendrick said public dollars are justified for the private entity because it will be enjoyed by all.
If it receives the money, the museum hopes to open the Buck O'Neil Education and Research Center in the fall of 2014 -- the 100th anniversary of the Paseo YMCA's opening.
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