Negro Leagues Museum to build new facility, campus at historic site

May 2nd, 2023

It’s a new beginning for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which is planning to build a new 30,000-square-foot facility located at historic 18th & Vine in Kansas City, the location where Negro Leagues baseball was born.

The new state-of-the-art facility will be built adjacent to the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center (BOERC), which will now be housed in the former Paseo YMCA. That historic building is where Rube Foster first gathered other team owners to start the discussion that led to the Negro National League forming in 1920.

The NLBM has already received its first donation -- and that came from Bank of America, which pledged $1 million in support of the new construction of the museum. The estimated cost to build the new facility is around $25 million.

“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, 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.”

The NLBM was founded in 1990 by Baseball Hall of Famer Buck O’Neil, who played first base and managed in the Negro Leagues. The museum’s president, Bob Kendrick, couldn’t help but think about the baseball legend during Tuesday’s press conference. O’Neil passed away in 2006.

“Now is the time to continue to dare to dream as we look at building a Negro Leagues campus as the gateway into the historic 18th and Vine,” Kendrick said. “I can’t help but believe that our friend, … Buck O’Neil, is somewhere in that great somewhere smiling, looking down on all of us as this next phase of growth begins for his organization.

“We are now moving from the stage of being a great attraction -- and we are proud of being one of the city’s iconic attractions -- to … becoming an institution, an institution that not only documents and substantiates this amazing piece of baseball and American history, but also fortifying … into one of this nation’s greatest social justice, civil right institutions.”

Former Major Leaguer and Royals Hall of Famer Frank White, a board member of NLBM and currently a Jackson County Executive in Kansas City, remembers the first meeting regarding the museum in ‘90. O’Neil and several Negro Leaguers such as Connie Johnson, Woody Smallwood and Jesse Williams were in attendance, and in that meeting, they talked about having a facility that would tell the entire story of Negro Leagues Baseball.

“This is a dream of all the Negro League players. This is what they wanted to see,” White remembered. “We are sitting here today in that first dream. Today, that dream took another step. I’m sure that all of those guys are looking down on us now and are really excited where we’ve gone with this museum.”

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is a privately funded, non-profit organization. Annually renewing memberships to support the museum are available, ranging from $25 to $1,000. Membership includes free admission for the year, a 10% discount on merchandise from the NLBM Extra Inning Store and advance information on special events. Members also receive a gift and additional benefits at each level of support.