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Phase I of Buck O'Neil Education & research center Complete

As construction professionals, some of the most rewarding projects are the ones that preserve the history of a building and return it to its former grandeur. The Buck O’ Neil Education & Research Center is an inspiring example of a community’s dedication to honoring the historical significance of a building, and giving it new life so that it can be shared with future generations.

History in the Making 
In 1920, the Negro National League was formalized in the Paseo YMCA in the 18th and Vine District in Kansas City. In the face of racism and segregation, the league offered African American baseball players the opportunity to become the legends we know today.

One of these legends was National Baseball Hall of Famer, former Negro Leagues legend, and Kansas City humanitarian, Buck O’Neil

Fast forward to 2013. After years of planning and fundraising, the Negro League Baseball Museum had revitalized the historic Paseo YMCA building that sat abandoned for years into the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center. The center served as a lively space for community events and banquets. 

Restoring the Glory
Sadly, the center was vandalized in 2018 resulting in $500,000 worth of damage that devastated the main and lower floors. Despite this disappointing setback, the Negro League Baseball Museum, along with the greater baseball and Kansas City community, pushed through with resiliency to begin the work to reopen the center. 

Having completed the original renovation, Russell’s Kansas City office (formerly Merit Construction) was hired to complete the revitalization project in May 2022.  

Phase I, which was completed in December 2022, included a floor to ceiling renovation of the 9,200 s.f. first floor, including: 

  • A banquet hall with a grand staircase leading to a mezzanine that encircles the room
  • (2) exhibition halls
  • Research library that will be used as a place for students and baseball enthusiasts to learn about local, regional, and national Black Baseball and social history.

Honoring the Legacy 
Russell collaborated with the ownership team to select and coordinate interior finishes from the custom woodwork to light fixtures. 
The research library – adorned with high-end, custom architectural woodwork handcrafted by Russell carpenters – holds historical significance as the place where the Negro National League was officially signed into existence by Andrew “Rube” Foster on February 13, 1920. 

“We are honored to be a part of this project that holds such significance in the Kansas City community. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the Negro League Baseball Museum to bring their vision to expand their footprint and Mr. O’Neil’s legacy for future generations,” said Eric Schroeder, Project Manager. 

Once complete, the center will advance the museum’s mission to preserve and celebrate the rich history of African-American baseball and its impact on the social advancement of America.