It’s not the type of project that will hit the ball right out of the park.
Yet the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s $850,000 expansion set to begin later this year is no walk to first base either.
Adam Stephens, chair of the board of the tiny museum that is located in a century-old stone house on 32 acres in St. Marys near Stratford, Ont., said the expansion will add much-needed storage space for its wide-ranging collection of artifacts and other materials pertaining to the popular summer game.
"The collection at present is being stored in a number of locations and it was recognized as a main goal of the organization to bring all of the collection and artifacts under one roof and to ensure that there was proper climate control and so on for all of the artifacts," Stephens said.
A 2,500-square-foot addition will provide space to store items as well as house its collection of rare baseball books, clippings and other records of the game. It will also provide a library and archive area where baseball scholars and aficionados can conduct research. The addition will be added to the front and side of the old stone house.
"We’ve been approached by some of the leaders of Canadian baseball history about the role they’re interested in playing in bringing this about, including for example the cataloguing of the collection," Stephens said.
The museum is footing the bill for much of the addition. A $100,000 federal grant rounds out the budget.
Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame
The board has hired Marklevitz Architects Inc. of Stratford to design the addition. Also on board to revamp the museum’s permanent displays and its wall of plaques celebrating inductees is BaAM Productions.
The Toronto company specializes in developing sports-related displays such as Hockey Heritage North in Kirkland Lake and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame at Glen Abbey golf course in Oakville as well as events such as the 2015 Pan-American Games closing ceremony and this year’s upcoming Invictus Games launch in Toronto.
Stephens said the project will break ground in the fall or early winter with the goal of completion by the end of March 2018.
"I think that this is a project that we can make happen and in the scheme of these types of projects, relatively quickly. We’ve got the money in the bank to get this project done," he said.
Last year, the board had approached St. Marys with an ambitious $6.5-million plan to create a new facility that would house the museum as well as a theatre and meeting space. The plan also included improvements to the museum’s grounds.
However, the board shelved the plan after the town council decided in December to pass on providing $550,000 in funding towards the project and more money for an annual operating grant.
The plan at that point was to create a tourist attraction not only for the hall of fame but also for the town. Stephens said the current project should not be considered as a replacement or watered-down version of the 2016 proposal.
"Proceeding with the plans that were presented to the town of St. Marys was dependent upon town council’s support, and so with denial of that request, that particular proposal was at an end," he added.
Nevertheless, the board recognized it still needed to address "paramount" concerns about ensuring its collection of artifacts was well cared for and that archival materials were made more accessible to the public. Those needs generated the current plan.
"We’re very excited about making concrete and immediate improvements in these important areas," he said.
There are no plans to approach the town for financial support of the current project, he said.
The project is still in the preliminary design stages and as of early June the board had not approved plans.
Established in 1983, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum houses a permanent display of Toronto Blue Jays and Montreal Expos artifacts and memorabilia.
Other prominent items in its collection are a ball signed by the 1941 Philadelphia Athletics and a baseball glove once used by Canadian hockey legend Gordie Howe.
Stephens said the museum building has about 3,500 visitors a year and considerably more use the grounds’ four baseball diamonds.