Al Lopez Baseball Museum to come to Ybor City

Before voting unanimously today to approve the proposal offered by Commissioner Kevin Beckner, three women involved in the deal came to address the board.

They included Chantal Hevia, president and chief executive officer of the Ybor City Museum Society, former Tampa City Councilwoman Mary Alvarez and Florida Department of Transportation official Elaine Illes.

The board's consent means that FDOT will move Lopez's home on 12th Street sometime later this year. It's expected that the society will need another year to renovate the house and transform it into the new baseball museum.

Illes said it was nothing new for her agency to move houses from one part of the city to another. Over the past decade, an agreement between the city of Tampa and FDOT moved a total of 59 structures, 49 of them into Ybor City. When the Lopez house is moved, it will replace four parking spaces currently used by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department; the site is just a few steps away from the Ybor City Museum State Park.

Mary Alvarez informed the board that the new museum will be funded by a variety of sources, none of them coming from taxpayers. Those sources include historic preservation grants, grants from a Community Redevelopment Agency Facade Program, interstate matching grants and the private sector.

Al Lopez died in 2005 at the age of 97. The City of Tampa previously recognized him by naming a minor league ballpark after him that was used from 1956-1989 before it was razed.

In 1992, the facility previously named Horizon Park off of Himes Boulevard was renamed Al Lopez Park in honor of the former baseball great, where it remains today a central location for major events, such as the march for Trayvon Martin earlier this spring.

In the late ’80s, former baseball star and Tampa native Steve Garvey's personal life became so scandalous that bumper stickers started appearing all over Southern California saying, "Honk If You're Carrying Steve Garvey's Love Child."

That little tidbit probably won't be included in the Garvey wing of the new Al Lopez Baseball Museum in Ybor City. But the museum does look like a go, now that the Hillsborough County commission has approved a proposal to lease land at the northeast corner of Ninth Avenue and 19th Street to the city of Tampa and move Lopez's home to that location.

Al Lopez was the first Tampa native to play in the major leagues and the first to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. But the museum will also include information about other locals who made good in "The Show," such as Garvey, Dwight Gooden and Gary Sheffield.

Scroll to read more News Feature articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.