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Disagreement over placement of proposed women’s baseball museum in Rockford delays zoning vote

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — While both sides agree they want to see a women's baseball museum in Rockford, they aren't agreeing on exactly where it should be built.

The proposal on the table comes from the Rockford Park District and the International Women's Baseball Center. It places a museum on the north end of Beyer Stadium. This is a change from original plans, which IWBC members say is due to a lack of space. Organization president Kat Williams says it's not feasible to place the community activity center, museum, and parking across the street from field. Williams says the main goal is for this campus to be a resource to the children who live in Rockford, especially close to the field.

"We will have a place where there will be batting cages and pitching cages and people who come from tournaments can use it," says Williams." It opens up where kids can practice soccer and volleyball. There will be workshops there. There will be training. How to tend a field, how do you umpire, how do you call the game? Those are the kinds of things that the youth in Rockford will get access to from this facility that is right there."

However, the Friends of Beyer says it's completely against this proposal, for the impact it would have on historic integrity of the field. It points to the decades of sporting competition not related to the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that it believes must be protected.

"We support a museum and the programming and opportunities that come with it across the street from Beyer Park," says Friends of Beyer founding member Andrew Wright. "Why doesn't the park district agree with us on that? Why put a big parking lot here and pave paradise?"

Players from the Rockford Starfires also spoke in opposition, saying the proposal would not only cut out the historic integrity but the available warm up space for tournaments. Members of the Friends of Beyer shared how they've poured sweat equity and their own finances into the space for years, and don't want to see that eliminated by this museum.

"We're not against the museum, and I'm going to clarify this for the last time," says Friends of Beyer member Greg Schwanke. "Get it right. We want that museum across the street we want that campus but we want Beyer Stadium more."

The IWBC says the historic integrity of the field has already been altered and changed over the years, and adds the proposed museum would have areas dedicated to Rockford's sporting history that took place there outside of the AAGPBL.

"There were a lot of comments on historic preservation about the field," says IWBC attorney Sherry Harlan. "The field is not historic. There are wonderful stories about the field but nothing historic really remains, it's remnants?"

Ultimately the Rockford Zoning Board of Appeals laid over its vote on a special use permit for this museum campus. After it makes its way through the ZBA it will be voted on in Code and Regulation before a final vote will be taken by Rockford City Council.

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13 WREX Newsroom

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