A meeting later this week between Forest Park Park District officials and those behind the push to open a hall of fame for 16-inch softball players could determine whether the hallowed halls will be unveiled in Forest Park.
The board of directors for the Chicago 16-inch Softball Hall of Fame is scheduled to tour a vacant building at the Park District on Harrison Street with an eye on using the property to display its collection of memorabilia. Such a venue does not yet exist, but players and fans of 16-inch softball have long discussed an interest in finding a permanent home to celebrate the game’s greatest.
Negotiators on both sides of the table are in agreement that Forest Park would be a suitable home for the hall of fame–the village hosted its 39th annual national no-gloves tournament this summer–but the facility offered up by the Park District may not be ideal. Art Lurie, a 12-year member of the hall of fame board, said the 600-square foot building could be too small.
“It is not big and that is our major concern,” Lurie said of the park district’s outbuilding. “We’ve got 12 years of inductions; we’ve got memorabilia. We could fill 10 of those buildings, honestly.”
Nonetheless, Lurie is excited by the prospect and would like to have the hall open in time for next summer’s national no-gloves tournament in Forest Park, which is hailed by many as one of the premier softball events in the country.
Lurie’s board has inducted roughly 500 members into its hall of fame since 1995 and has collected hundreds of historical and educational artifacts. Sadly, he said, they’ve never been able to showcase those collections.
The hall of fame’s board is scheduled to view the property Sept. 8 and is expected to make a decision on the investment soon after.
Larry Piekarz, park district executive director, said there are some strict covenants on the property that would prevent anyone from doing major renovations. The building was purchased using state grants, which outlined that the footprint can not be expanded, nor can additional stories be added. The park district Board of Commissioners favors Lurie’s proposed use, Piekarz said, and would likely charge a minimal amount of rent.
“It would be a real feather in the cap for the park district,” Piekarz said.
Howard Boy, president of the park commission, said there may be a way to expand the front of the building, but that idea needs to be explored by the Park District before any decisions are made. Opening a hall of fame in Forest Park is “extremely possible,” Boy said and would be a great addition to the community.