Vandals delay work at Buck O’Neil Center
Damage to the Buck O’Neil Research and Education Center is still being assessed after the structure was vandalized over the weekend. But community and civic leaders should use the incident as an opportunity to further galvanize around a building dedicated to Kansas City’s favorite baseball legend.
Cleanup crews have worked since Friday to dry out the flooded center in the former Paseo YMCA building on the edge of Kansas City’s historic 18th & Vine District.
The building was the site where the Negro National League formed in 1920. Vandals broke into the center Friday and cut a water pipe on the second floor, police said, heavily damaging the first floor and the basement. The parquet floor inside the center’s marquee ballroom must be replaced.
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick said Monday that he is unsure if insurance will cover the damage. He hopes to have a final answer by midweek.
“And then we will put together an action plan to see where we go next,” Kendrick said.
That plan should include baseball enthusiasts and civic-minded organizations alike. The continued support, power, pull and financial might of Major League Baseball and the Kansas City Royals would be welcome as well.
The center is the realization of O’Neil’s longtime dream to turn a derelict eyesore into something grand. It will eventually be an extension of the museum, with a baseball-centric curriculum and space for public events.
O’Neil was a stickler for education.
“This new education and research center is much more important to me than any Hall of Fame election,” O’Neil once said. Only a renewed commitment from a collective of public and private figures can get the project back on track.
Good can come out of this unfortunate episode once police finish their investigation and the museum unveils its plan to refurbish the building. A flood of support has poured in from all over the country.
As restaurateur Ollie Gates, an instrumental figure in the building’s renovation, told a local TV station after the incident, the vandalism damaged more than the building. It hurt the people who value the historic significance of the center, O’Neil and the museum.
“It did enough damage to kind of hurt your soul that somebody would be that negligent or that thoughtless that they would go in and do something like that,” Gates said.
The double whammy should be no more than a minor setback and should spur action to bring Buck O’Neil’s vision to fruition.