KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A piece of baseball history is about to be revitalized, but organizers need your help.
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is working to get a grant that would revamp Monarch Plaza, the former site of Municipal Stadium.
History was made there. Jackie Robinson played there. Satchel Paige pitched there. Frank White Jr. grew up there. Hopefully, by this spring it will be a place everyone will want to visit.
The monarch butterfly is beautiful. A symbol of rebirth, change and hope. For the Kansas City Monarchs, their journey in Kansas City is much the same. Starting in the 1920s, they became a symbol of baseball greatness.
“The Kansas City Monarchs are still the greatest baseball franchise this city has ever seen. They had one losing season in their almost 40-year existence in the Negro Leagues,” said Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
“Baseball was America’s game at the time, and everybody wanted to play,” White Jr. said.
The Monarchs built the Negro Leagues legacy at Municipal Stadium at the corner of 22nd Street and Brooklyn Avenue. That legacy is something Kendrick is incredibly passionate about.
“There’s so much history, so many memories associated with Municipal Stadium that we don’t want to be lost, and the plaza gives us an opportunity to preserve and celebrate those memories,” Kendrick said.
While Robinson, Paige and so many other greats played there, now the site is home to Monarch Plaza. A monument put in place back in 2012 is now fading into a memory. The plaza meant to feature Municipal Stadium’s rich history is now in disrepair.
White remembers it the way it was.
“It was really just a neighborhood park for us,” White said.
He played for the Kansas City Royals for nearly 20 years. White was part of their 1985 World Series championship and is in the Royals Hall of Fame. White played at Municipal Stadium once before it was torn down in an amateur all-star game before he made it to the big leagues. He was in awe to play on the same field as his heroes.
“I remember just wondering to myself, ‘Will I ever play in this stadium?’ I was always amazed at how fast they were, how far they could hit the ball,” White said. “I couldn’t get over how big it seemed. Just the spaciousness of it.”
Kendrick said these memories can’t be forgotten and is working toward a $10,000 grant for revitalizing the park.
“We have this beautiful plaza that seemingly people walked away from and left it there to fend for itself,” Kendrick said.
Part of the plan is a monarch butterfly garden. Kendrick said they are working with the Department of Conservation to install pollinators and other plants to attract the species. The Greek translation of its scientific name is “sleepy transformation,” which seems fitting for the parks upgrades.
“It’s pretty poetic,” Kendrick said.
“I love that! I love that,” White said.
Kendrick’s goal is to make Monarch Plaza an attraction that brings people to the neighborhood and a way to inspire generations through the memories made on the former pitch.
“Right there on the corner of 22nd and Brooklyn, the ghost of all those legendary stars still call that place home,” Kendrick said.
“I can’t wait to see it finished. I think it’s going to be a great day,” White said.
They’re hoping to obtain one of Evergy’s Spread Good Energy Hometown grants. The top three submissions with the highest number of votes will each get $10,000 toward their proposed project.
To vote for the Monarch Plaza’s revitalization, simply like the image on Facebook through this link.
Kendrick said they will move forward with revitalization even if they don’t receive the grant, but it would help them get a big head start on the project. He hopes to unveil the park on May 6, the anniversary of Robinson’s first game with the Monarchs.
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