A land transfer approved Wednesday by Hillsborough County commissioners paves the way for a baseball museum named after Tampa native and baseball Hall of Famer Al Lopez.
Commissioners agreed unanimously to lease county-owned land at 19th Street and Ninth Avenue in Ybor City to the city of Tampa. The city would in turn lease it to the Ybor City Museum Society for the Al Lopez Baseball Museum.
The exhibits will be housed in the Lopez family home, which will be moved to the site from its location at 1210 E.12th Ave. The house now belongs to the Florida Department of Transportation, which acquired it for the expansion of Interstate 4.
"We've been promised this house if we can get it relocated," said Mary Alvarez, treasurer of the museum society. "Let us honor this man along with the other baseball giants we have in this area."
It will take about six months for the DOT to move the house, and another year for the museum society to rehabilitate it. The commission's approval of the lease allows society members to apply for historic renovation grants.
"We're not asking for any money from the county," Alvarez said. "We're going to do this ourselves."
Elaine Illes, a consultant for the DOT's historic mitigation program, said funds are available for the project in Tampa's interstate trust fund. The fund was created with money the city received from selling homes that were relocated for state road projects.
"The interstate trust fund was set up for something just like this," Illes said.
The museum society is opening a baseball exhibit Oct. 18 called "For the Love of the Game" at the Ybor City Museum State Park. That exhibit will move into the Al Lopez home when the house is ready.
Other exhibits will come from private collections on consignment or through donations. Chantal Hevia, chief executive of the museum society, said she started getting calls from private collectors willing to provide memorabilia for the museum after The Tampa Tribune published a story about it Wednesday.