Hall of Fame Co-founder Al Maag of the Chicago 16-Inch Softball Hall of Fame has announced that its museum and hall of fame park will be located in Forest Park, Il. “Our decade-long search has ended, thanks to the support of the park officials and commissioners of Forest Park,” Maag said. “The location has many assets, such as being next to the ‘Wrigley Field’ of 16-inch softball; and the no-glove tournament nationals–attended by thousands–are held here every July.” Since 1996, more than 300 individuals and teams have been inducted or honored annually into the Chicago 16-inch Softball Hall of Fame in men’s, women’s, umpire, organizer, and supporter categories.
The museum and adjacent park will be located on the corner of Harrison St. and Des Plaines Ave. The rarely-used 1,400 sq. ft. building at the site will be donated and used as the museum to showcase the game’s history and importance to Chicago. The Chicago 16-Inch Softball Hall of Fame will pay for all upgrades. The park area will display the plaques of each inductee.
The building committee is led by Hall of Fame board members Ron Kubicki and Ray Topps, Jr. Topps noted, “Ron and I have had the help of architects from FMG and Sigalos and Associates, and three design bids, the museum and park design has yet to be finalized, but current plans by 3D Exhibits will be our initial design winner.” Kubicki said. “One unique factor in this program is that so many softball players are in the construction business and some will be our craftsmen. We have been offered materials and the time and talent of many volunteers. Due to that fact we are not positive what the cost will be but we are budgeting $500,000.”
Forest Park Director Larry Piekarz added, “This is so wonderful because it represents an upgrade to our park program. Once the old building is renovated it will be a jewel in our park complex and will provide educational value to thousands of children, Forest Park citizens, and visitors.”
“This will be one of the most exciting attractions in our city,” said Howard “Bud” Boy, Forest Park Park District Board president. “It’s an honor for our city to be an integral part of this tribute to the greatest players of Chicago’s great game. The Hall of Fame will be a destination of choice for our citizens and guests; they will love it.”
According to Hall of Fame board member Art Lurie, “The museum and park will be a labor of love to finalize and bring to the public the game’s history, which threads through generations of Chicago families. Stories of inductees and honorees like Mike Royko, Sweetwater Clifton, Ed Zolna, Mary Pat McGuire, Rich Melman, Mel Thillens, Bob Sirott, Mike North and Tony Reibel will be among those told. It is our intention to describe how the game of softball was invented here in 1887, how balls and bats are made, display uniforms, the different eras and styles of the game’s evolution, and Forest Park’s impact on the game since 1933. And all the inductee plaques will be exhibited outside so anyone interested can see them anytime. ”
The Hall of Fame board lead by president Gary Thorsen have been working on this project since last year. They voted unanimously to move forward on the project in March, but continued to prudently review all options and created a 3 year business plan to market the sport and the museum/park in June. Details and how to donate or sponsor the building fund will be announced on 7/19.