Realizing the right time to capitalize on a fleeting opportunity – then taking action. This is the story both. A story of a community, coming together, in brotherhood, in sisterhood, in the name of a piece of history they didn’t want to be forgotten and making it happen. The result: The Tampa Baseball Museum at the Al Lopez House.
Like a ballpark before big a game, the lights were dim, the stands – empty. Then something special happened. More than a dozen key players stepped unto the field, up to the plate and hit it out of the park.
It seems fitting that the mission of that this museum, this sacred structure, is to preserve and honor Tampa’s unique historic role in the game of baseball and provide community inspiration by celebrating local legends – past, present, and future. It’s likely why recruiting the best lineup of leaders was simple, and pure and felt right.
More than a dozen key
players stepped up to
the field…and hit it
out of the park.
The Ybor City Museum Society is head coach for a dedicated team of players with a pivotal role in bringing the Tampa Baseball Museum at the Al Lopez House to life:
FDOT’s commitment to preserving Tampa’s heritage through the Interstate Historic Mitigation Plan saved the Al Lopez house. The house was in the path of widening I-4, and FDOT staff members recognized the structure as the former home of baseball great Al Lopez. The house was then deemed “historically significant,” and scouted a piece of land and community partner for the home.
FDOT approached the Ybor City Museum Society, which manages the row of five historic “casitas” along 19th Street in Ybor City and supports the Ybor City Museum State Park. The Society stepped up to the plate to develop a baseball museum, and Hillsborough County leased land along 19th Street to the Society at nearly no cost for 30 years (with an option to extend for another 30 years).
Moving the original structure 1.5 miles from Lopez’s former address to its new location took an all-star team to make it happen. At 8 p.m. on May 15, 2013, crews from Florida’s Department of Transportation rolled the home off its original lot at 1210 E. 12th Avenue and began to inch toward 2003 N. 19th Street.
To ensure the integrity Al Lopez’s childhood home, moving and utility crews slowly and carefully navigated the route, with power lines, utility poles, traffic lights, trees and street signs along the way. Nearly 14 hours later, on May 16, 2013, the museum’s new home was put into place.
Lopez’s home is in good company. The six neighboring houses along 19th Street were moved from other locations in Tampa and placed here by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) as part of the 64-home Interstate Historic Mitigation Plan.
In addition to providing the land, the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners awarded a Historic Preservation Challenge Grant to the Ybor City Museum Society to support the development of the Tampa Baseball Museum. The grant requires a 100% match (combined monetary and in-kind) in order to receive the full $250,000 funding.
In October 2012, the City of Tampa awarded a Community Redevelopment Area Façade Improvement Grant to the Ybor City Museum Society for the Tampa Baseball Museum. The program provides financial assistance for exterior renovation, restoration and rehabilitation as well as landscaping improvements.
Renovations to the Al Lopez house will transform the structure from a house into a museum. The facade will be kept largely intact, with significant reconfiguration of the interior.