NEW YORK -- This was a day for groundbreaking barriers.
Commissioner Rob Manfred joined Rachel and Sharon Robinson at a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday morning in lower Manhattan to mark the start of construction on the Jackie Robinson Museum. The 18,500-square-foot space at 75 Varick Street will honor the late Hall of Famer, who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball when he started for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947, and played an active, pioneering role in the civil rights movement.
"Jack lived his life with such great purpose," said Rachel Robinson, the Jackie Robinson Foundation founder and wife of Jackie Robinson. "I hope that visitors to the museum will not only learn about his journey and experience his energy, but that they will be inspired to view each day as a chance to make a difference."
MLB donated $1 million to the foundation in 2016 to expand its partnership with JRF, part of that toward the fundraising drive. Manfred joined dignitaries in donning hardhats and planting shovels in a row of symbolic dirt.
"Major League Baseball is really proud to have contributed to this project, but quite frankly we are even prouder of our longstanding relationship with the Jackie Robinson Foundation," Manfred said. "Every year on April 15, baseball pauses to honor the legacy of Jackie Robinson. We undertake this unique celebration because Jackie's breaking of the color barrier is literally the greatest moment in the history of baseball. It is the greatest moment because Jackie took our game beyond sport and made it a part of a process of change in America that is still going today."
The museum will expand the foundation's mission to educate and expose current and future generations of Americans to a man and an era that were pivotal in forming a more inclusive society. Interactive exhibitions, educational outreach efforts and dynamic programing to illuminate the life and character of one of the most storied athletes of all time are all on the museum's agenda.
"We are proud to realize Rachel Robinson's dream of establishing a fixed tribute to her husband's rich legacy," said Della Britton Baeza, JRF's president and CEO. "Jackie Robinson's contributions to our country propelled us through challenging social times and continue to encourage us to practice empathy and brotherhood toward others. The Jackie Robinson Museum will satisfy sports fans who will learn more about Jackie Robinson's great accomplishments as an athlete and visitors of all walks of life who want to be inspired by a true humanitarian."
In addition to MLB and the Dodgers, Mets and Yankees, diverse partners who have gifted the foundation include Nike, Phil Knight, the Yawkey Foundation, the City of New York, Citi, Strada Education Network, the Tull Family Foundation and Stephen Ross. Halfway to its $42 million fundraising goal, which is inclusive of a museum operating endowment, the foundation plans to open the museum's doors in the spring of 2019.
The museum is located near the intersection of Varick and Canal streets in the heart of downtown Manhattan, just blocks north of the 9/11 Memorial. The foundation retained Gensler as its design architect in collaboration with Ralph Appelbaum Associates, exhibit designer, to develop the museum.
Joseph Plumeri, vice chairman of the First Data board of directors, chairs the museum's legacy campaign, and he said, "This museum is about honoring a legacy and the courage of a hero who shaped American history. Through baseball and beyond, Jackie Robinson impacted a nation. He continues to serve as a reminder that all people deserve the absence of hate and discrimination and an equal opportunity to succeed."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com/blogs hub. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.