A year-long celebration in 2020 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues could help shine a light on the museum that shares its name and Kansas City.
But it will take public and private dollars to make it happen.
Donations such as the seven-figure gift from Major League Baseball and the recent six-figure gift Kansas City Southern bestowed on the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum would help the organization celebrate in style.
The long-talked about Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center will open later this year at the Paseo YMCA thanks in large part to a $1 million donation to the museum from MLB and its players’ association.
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Fittingly, Andrew “Rube” Foster created the Negro Leagues inside the Paseo YMCA in 1920.
Kansas City Southern’s $100,000 donation earlier this month to commemorate the Negro Leagues’ 98th anniversary is another example of the private sector stepping up.
The donation coincided with the debut of “Beauty of the Game,” a new exhibit celebrating the women of the Negro Leagues.
The museum’s partnership with MLB and the Kansas City Royals-led Urban Youth Academy is another example of a successful partnership.
The academy is a $19 million project aimed at attracting kids to the sport with a state-of-the-art training facility. The city provided $2 million for the facility slated to open this spring. Private donations were also used.
The Royals, long-time benefactors of the museum, will provide $500,00 per year to operation the academy. Royals Charities has donated more than $330,000 in cash to the museum since the mid-2000s.
Those are just a few examples of the collaboration it will take to elevate the museum’s legacy.
NLBM President Bob Kendrick said a year-long celebration could include new exhibitions, traveling exhibitions, and organized visits from Major League players throughout the year.
All options are on the table.
“We’ll throw some things out there and see how much of it sticks,” Kendrick said.
The private sector and anybody else that wants to play should get on board. As Kendrick said, it takes resources to plan something this ambitious.
“We want the spotlight to shine on Kansas City as the birthplace of the Negro Leagues,” he said. “This is the perfect time for the city, the state, the county — everybody — to rally around this.”
Kansas City Councilman Jermaine Reed, whose district includes the museum, said having multiple, city-wide celebrations combined with a larger commemorative event would be ideal.
“You only turn 100 once,” Reed said. “It’s worthy of a year-long celebration.”
Sports columnist Sam Mellinger wrote last year the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown would not be able to function without support from Major League Baseball.
The Negro Leagues Museum should receive the same financial support, he wrote. The $1 million donation was a start.
A grand celebration would raise the national profile of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and help preserve the league’s history going forward.
It will take money to pull this off. To maximize the opportunity, public and private donations are needed.
And planning should start now.