By Kevin Collison
While the new Kansas City Monarchs reboot is a salute to the Negro Leagues storied past, it also should yield significant revenues for the future of its signature museum at the 18th & Vine Historic District.
The announcement the former T-Bones minor league ball club will be called the Kansas City Monarchs when they begin play at Field of Legends ballpark at Village West was the centerpiece of a press event Thursday at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
But the resurrection of the Monarchs name also is anticipated to be a significant marketing and financial boost to the museum, which like many institutions has struggled to raise money during the past year because of the pandemic.
“The more of you who go out to see the Monarchs play, the more support will be generated for the Negro League Baseball Museum,” said Bob Kendrick, museum president.
Kendrick declined to provide details of the 21-year licensing agreement with the new owners of the minor league team, MaxFun Entertainment, but said the initial fee will be in the six-figure range and is expected to increase annually.
The NLBM also will receive a 5 percent cut on sales of merchandise, and food and beverages sold at the Field of Legends.
The NLBM had a roller-coaster 2020 when it came to fundraising for what was the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Negro Leagues in Kansas City.
It began with a home run when Major League Baseball and its players contributed $1 million to the museum.
But when Covid hit, the museum was forced to cancel its biggest fundraisers including the annual Jazz and Jackie (Robinson) celebration, the Hall of Game and the Hotdog Festival. A planned centennial gala also was scratched.
The inability to host events prompted the NLBM to go virtual. It launched a “Tip Your Cap to the Negro Leagues” campaign in June that featured cameos from Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, as well as sports celebrities.
The ongoing Tip Your Cap campaign has raised more than $200,000 last year and attracted up to 1,500 new donors to the Negro League Museum.
In November, a streetcar wrapped to resemble the jersey of beloved Monarch Buck O’Neil debuted along with a RideKC bus done up like the barn-storming buses Negro League players rode from town-to-town and a fleet of NLBM bicycles.
And in a big gesture out of Washington that’s anticipated to yield up to $6 million for the museum, Congress approved minting up to 50,000, five-dollar gold coins; 400,000, one-dollar silver coins, and 400,000 half-dollar clad coins to honor the Leagues centennial.
The new arrangement with the owners of the Kansas City Monarchs also calls for an exhibit about the Negro Leagues history to be displayed at the ballpark, and ultimately a traveling exhibit to accommodate the players on the road.
“We will essentially be a traveling billboard for the museum and their mission,” Monarchs owner Mark Brandmeyer said in a statement.
“And if we can help educate and at the same time field a team our city and the museum can be proud of, that’s our goal.”
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