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Negro Leagues Baseball Museum announces plan to build new $25 million museum campus

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Posted at 11:16 AM, May 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-02 23:28:05-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The first baseball game of the Negro Leagues took place on May 2, 1920 as the Indianapolis ABCs beat the Chicago Giants 4-2. Over a century later, the spirit of the Negro Leagues still is strong through the iconic Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

Now, the museum is about to get bigger, as the NLBM and president Bob Kendrick announced plans Tuesday to build a new $25-million campus for the museum Tuesday, the 103rd anniversary of the first Negro League game.

Kendrick and the museum released renderings of what the new museum is expected to look like, with the outside of the building set to have images of Satchel Paige, Buck O'Neil, Josh Gibson and other Negro League stars.

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The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City announced Tuesday plans to build a new facility in Kansas City to house the museum.

The new campus, set to be located at 18th and Paseo, will also have a baseball field right next to the museum.

Kendrick said the need for the additional space became clear to the museum over the past two years. The museum saw a record turnout of over 14,000 visitors during Black History Month in February 2023, a busy month for the museum.

While Kendrick said while he and the NLBM were tremendously glad to see the turnout, they felt got too hectic and crowded in its current form.

"(The current building) is not designed to have that many people in it at one time," Kendrick said. "While no one says a disparaging word about the museum, the (record turnout) made things feel uncomfortable...It just reinforced the fact that we needed to expand so we can better accommodate so we don't interrupt what this experience is all about for those who partake in it."

Kendrick also stated that the museum would be unable to exhibit future displays if it stayed in its current space. Kendrick said that with the new campus, the museum can now do a call for collection for new items to be on display at the museum.

Kendrick was joined by Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, Jackson County executive and Royals legend Frank White, Kansas City Sporting Commission and VisitKC president/CEO Kathy Nelson and Kansas City Royals owner/chairman John Sherman for the announcement.

"This will be something that will truly be special for generations ahead," Lucas said Tuesday.

For White, Tuesday's announcement was a major milestone, as he was one of the early supporters of the NLBM, and took turns paying its monthly rent when it first started. White recounted a meeting with Kendrick and Negro League players Buck O'Neil, Connie Johnson and others back in 1990 on the origins of the museum.

"This museum was a dream for all the Negro Leagues players, this is what they wanted to see," White said. "Today, that dream just took another step, and I'm sure all those guys are looking down on us now and are really excited about where we have gone with the museum."

Funding for the building is still a work in progress with the NLBM looking for donations. One donor pitching in is Bank of America, which donated $1 million to the cause, and had representatives in attendance at the announcement.

The museum, originally opened in 1990 as a single-room office inside the Lincoln Building at the historic 18th and Vine Streets. It eventually moved twice, before relocating to its current building where the museum shares its space with the American Jazz Museum.