St. Marys Journal Argus
Over the past three weeks, the board of directors of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has moved two very significant steps closer to being able to present to potential big-money corporate sponsors a proposal for a new building to house its treasures.
First, during the 2014 Induction Weekend in late June, the first-ever Baseball Family Street Festival was a massive success, giving the Toronto Blue Jays Major League Baseball club every reason to continue supporting what will surely become an annual celebration of the game in downtown St. Marys.
The Blue Jays organization was “absolutely thrilled with the results,” board of directors chair John Starzynski told St. Marys Town Council during a Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday, July 8. “They want to come back next year and years into the future . . . They intend for (the Hall of Fame) to be here a long time, and they want to do what they can to make that happen.”
In a subsequent interview with the Journal Argus, Starzynski said being able to describe the downtown festival to potential sponsors will definitely work in the Hall of Fame’s favour.
The board chair was at the July 8 meeting, however, for another reason: to hear town councillors approved a motion to “endorse the Gateway site location for the new Museum.” With that approval, Starzynski told the Journal Argus, the board will now set up meetings with museum design consultants, building designers, and landscape designers with an aim to come up with a complete proposal for a new building.
“The Gateway site comes off Water Street at the bottom of the roadway (leading up to the Hall of Fame ball diamonds),” explained Starzynski. “It’s got good road access and high visibility for people travelling along Water Street. That’s a big reason why, we believe, it’s a site that is beneficial not only for the Hall of Fame, but also for all of St. Marys.”
Representatives for the Hall of Fame met behind closed doors with Town Council in late June to go over possible locations for the new museum. Board of directors member Charlie Hammond told the Journal Argus there were many possibilities over the years, ranging from locations within the 32-acre former St. Marys Cement-owned tract of land that was originally donated to the Town so it could provide a home to the Hall of Fame, to other Town-owned and privately-owned properties throughout the municipality. But the so-called Gateway site, he explained, kept rising to the top of the pile thanks to its proximity to existing Hall of Fame facilities, potential for future building expansion, and availability of parking in two large nearby Town-owned lots across Water Street.
“Probably one of the biggest considerations is parking,” Starzynski said. “When you’ve got buses coming in and turning around, that’s definitely something you want to keep in mind.”
The building would not only house the Museum, but it would also serve as a host venue for the annual Induction Ceremony. Hammond told the Journal Argus that, although there are no plans yet, he envisions the ceremony taking place on a balcony on the building, while the audience is accommodated out-of-doors stretching out towards Water Street.
“It’s kind of a natural amphitheatre on that site,” he said.
The lot is part of the tract originally donated by St. Marys Cement, and includes a stone cottage, currently boarded-up, that was built by and is the former home of Alexander McDonald, stonemason for the original 1865 Victoria Bridge and the 1868 Junction Station. Councillor Bill Osborne wondered if there might be a way for the cottage to be included in the new museum’s design. But Starzynski said it’s too early to tell.
“It’s premature for me to say what the building is going to look like,” he said. He told the Journal Argus, however, that they’re working from “a preliminary basis” of a building of approximately 15,000 square feet. “That’s a start . . . but everything depends on cost. Ultimately, it would be bigger as we get bigger. But let’s start at 15,000 square feet.”
Asked about a possible timeline, Starzynski said that, too, depends on the response from potential corporate sponsors.
“I wish we had the $4-$5 million right now, and we could say ‘let’s put it up’.” If that was the case, “we’ve been told we could have a building in place within three years, and be holding the Induction Ceremony at that site three years from now.
“But that’s an extremely optimistic view, and we would have to have the money first.”