The nomadic 12-year journey for the Chicago 16-inch Softball Hall of Fame appears to be over after board members toured a vacant Park District property over the weekend and agreed to establish a museum at the site.
Art Lurie and other members of the hall of fame’s board of directors met with park officials on Sept. 8 to view a small outbuilding on the district’s Harrison Street grounds. Though the 600-square foot property is too small to house the hall’s entire collection, Lurie said his board and the Park District have agreed in principle to open a hall of fame celebrating the sport’s local history.
Organizers are pushing to have the facility ready for the 40th annual no-gloves tournament in 2008.
“It will be open, I guarantee you it will be open,” Lurie said. “Whether I have to go out there myself and lay the bricks and paint the walls, that baby will be open. We can’t afford to miss that opportunity.”
Prior to last weekend’s meeting, park officials spoke optimistically of having the softball hall of fame located in Forest Park, saying the addition would be a credit to the village’s relationship to the game. Forest Park has hosted the national invitational for almost four decades to rave reviews from the 16-inch community. The quality of the competition regularly draws thousands of spectators to the weekend tournament.
“It would be a real feather in the cap for the park district,” Executive Director Larry Piekarz said last month of opening a hall of fame in the village.
A lease agreement is being drafted by the park district and it’s not yet clear what the terms may be, Lurie said. Board members estimated the renovation work would cost anywhere from $100,000 to $250,000, Lurie said, and as the price tag goes up board members would like to see the length of the agreement increased.
Meanwhile, the hall of fame board will begin soliciting sponsorships and donations from both corporate and individual contributors.
“We are quite honestly going to need some community support,” Lurie said.
The Chicago 16-inch Softball Hall of Fame is hosting its 12th annual dinner event this January to help raise money for the organization and honor various players and teams. Since its inception nearly a dozen years ago, the hall of fame has inducted some 500 people and collected scores of memorabilia.