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Negro Leagues Museum's $4M renovation project delayed by vandals

Officials at the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City are assessing damage after the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center was vandalized over the weekend.

According to the Kansas City Star, cleanup crews have been working since Friday night to dry out flooded areas after vandals broke into the old Paseo YMCA, which was the birthplace of Negro League baseball and is now being renovated to house the center created in O’Neil’s name.

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It’s reported vandals broke in the center and cut a water pipe on the second floor. The flooding resulted in significant water damage on the first floor and in the basement and will reportedly set back the $4M renovation project that’s been going on since 2011.

How will the damage impact the renovation project?

According to police, museum staff became aware of the incident when the fire alarm panel alerted them to the pipe break. Responding employees found water gushing down stairwells and seeping through ceilings. The building’s first floor, which was months away from being reopened to the public, reportedly suffered the most damage. The entire parquet floor inside the center’s marquee ballroom will have to be replaced.

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick told the Kansas City Star that he wasn’t sure if insurance would cover the damage. Here’s more from Kendrick courtesy of Bleacher Report’s Natalie Werner.

“There has been a community investment in this project that goes beyond finance,” Kendrick said of the project this week. “This was an investment of sweat equity. When we first started cleaning the building up, ordinary people from the community would come in, put their boots on and start gathering debris. A lot of people in Kansas City are hurting right alongside the Negro Leagues Museum, as we think about this very heinous attempt to damage the center.”

The project was originally expected to be completed next year. Kendrick and other officials remain optimistic that the project will remain on or near that timeline. That’s welcome news considering the extent of the damage and financial complications caused by the vandalism.

If 2019 doesn’t work out, the center’s official debut could be held back to coincide with the centennial of the Negro National League, which is scheduled for Feb. 13, 2020. A more concrete timeline should be determined in the next few days.

Another Kansas City Negro Leagues landmark was recently damaged

Vandalism at the Buck O’Neil Center is the second suspected crime-related incident involving a Negro League landmark in Kansas City in the last month.

On May 28, the former home of Negro Leagues legend Satchel Paige was potentially irreparably damaged by a fire. Investigators are still looking into whether that fire was set by an arsonist.

According to The Kansas City Star’s report at the time, there were signs that an accelerant may have been used in the fire at Paige’s former home. The home was vacant at the time.

Neither event is being investigated as a hate crime, according to police. There’s been insufficient evidence pointing to that being true in each individual case, and there’s no evidence that connects the incidents either. Nonetheless, the incidents happening so close together has been enough to raise eyebrows.

A look at the Buck O’Neil Research and Education Center before renovations began in 2010. (AP)

A time to come together

Before his death in 2006, Buck O’Neil envisioned creating a place that would bring the community together. The creation of the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center symbolizes that vision coming to life. That’s why museum officials are hoping the community can put their frustration and anger stemming from these recent incidents behind them and honor O’Neil’s hopes and wishes.

“Rest assured that this project is not going to die because this crazy incident occurred,” Kendrick told Bleacher Report. “It makes us even more resolved to get this thing moving so that the community can start using it. Right now, we’re just dealing with the reality that someone would do something like this.”

Editor’s Note: The Bleacher Report quotes were previously improperly credited to the Kansas City Star.  We apologize for the oversight. 

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