Remodeled Monarch Plaza in Kansas City celebrates baseball and butterflies

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Kansas City
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Kansas City, Mo. – The Kansas City Monarchs baseball team and monarch butterflies were celebrated together May 6 on hallowed ground. City leaders and sports heroes rededicated Monarch Plaza at what was once the entrance to Municipal Stadium, where legendary sports heroes and the Beatles once played. Shrubs and planter boxes with native wildflowers installed by the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Community Conservation Team lead into the site and they mimic where the turnstiles once were.

“This place has so much history,” said Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, the entity that owns the site at Brooklyn Avenue and 22nd Street. “No more important history was made at this site than when the Kansas City Monarchs played here.”

The stadium opened in 1923 and was torn down in 1976. In between, the stadium hosted great players with the legendary Monarchs Negro League baseball team, the New York Yankees farm affiliate the Kansas City Blues, the Kansas City Athletics major league baseball team, the Kansas City Royals baseball team, and the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football team. Plus, the stadium hosted many other sports events and a 1964 Beatles concert. Babe Ruth and other early baseball greats barnstormed there. Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle of the Yankees brought their famous home run race to the stadium in 1961. On June 21, Mantle homered twice over Municipal’s outfield wall. But Maris won the race by season’s end with 61 homers.

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum has installed benches and signs on Monarch Plaza. The story signs celebrate the greats who played there from the baseball Monarchs “ageless wonder” Satchel Paige and future superstar Jackie Robinson to Chiefs football star Buck Buchanan. A chance meeting between employees of MDC and the museum led to the idea of monarch butterflies being celebrated there, too, said Wendy Sangster, MDC community conservation planner.

“We’re glad to be a part of it,” said Missouri Conservation Commissioners Mark McHenry. “I think it’s great that we’re involved and that we can put the monarch butterfly and Monarchs baseball together.

MDC provides conservation programs in urban areas and monarch butterfly habitat is a special focus, as their numbers have declined due to habitat loss. The Community Conservation Team planted shrubs and butterfly-friendly native annuals and perennials in concrete planters. Nonnative annuals with red blooms to match the baseball Monarchs colors were planted for this summer, as the new native perennials will need time to grow. MDC will work with the Heartland Conservation Alliance and their youth program on site maintenance and education. A story sign will explain the importance of monarchs and conservation.

“Many of the flowers blooming in the planters are red annuals to honor the color of the Kansas City Monarchs,” Sangster said. “But in between each of those flowers is a native plant just waiting to bloom. Those native plants will benefit migrating and breeding monarch butterflies as they make their long spring and fall migrations. It’s a perfect representation of this plaza, where a regal baseball team is honored alongside a regal butterfly.”

McHenry was among several dignitaries who addressed a large crowd for the rededication of the remodeled Monarch Plaza. Also speaking were Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, Dominque Davison of DRAW Architecture, and Curt Nelson, Royals Hall of Fame director. Jackson County Executive Frank White, a former KC Royals Gold Glove second baseman, spoke of growing up in the neighborhood. The Evergy utility company donated $10,000 for remodeling of the site. Kendrick praised the partnerships that enabled the work, and he said the museum was excited about incorporating the ecological message of monarch butterflies as well as baseball.

“Special things happened here,” Kendrick said. “It was Kansas City’s Field of Dreams.”