One of the few great moments in Monday night’s NCAA title game (unless you’re a Carolina fan I guess) was the unveiling of the new basketball Hall of Fame class, which includes Michael Jordan, David Robinson, and John Stockton. Unfortunately, the way things are going, the building in which they’ll be inducted might not be around much longer.
According to SI’s Alexander Wolff, the hoops Hall in Springfield, Mass., is flailing and mired in millions of dollars of debt. While it appears that everything possible will be done to keep the museum open, one option being floated around is selling off the Hall’s memorabilia and essentially shutting down.
In a Feb. 18 memo to its Board, president and CEO John Doleva described an organization in crisis, with daily admissions barely half what were projected when the new building opened in 2002, and carrying a debt load he called “staggering.” Doleva said he came to work every day focused not on preserving and promoting the game and its heritage, but on managing cash flow.
Doleva floated four ways of facing down the crisis: selling the Hall to an outside entity; embarking on a fundraising campaign (at a wholly inauspicious time, it should be noted, in the midst of a financial meltdown and on the heels of a capital campaign the Hall had just concluded); declaring bankruptcy; or selling off its $10 million worth of memorabilia and artifacts. All this after layoffs and paycuts, instituted last year, to realize annual savings of a half-million dollars.
My first reaction is that it’s hard to expect huge flocks of people to descend on Springfield, which isn’t exactly a tourist mecca. But then again, baseball’s Hall seems to do just fine in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York.
Wolff says the Hall is smartly going to attempt to capitalize on Jordan’s lasting popularity by putting together a huge exhibit about His Airness. Wolff also half-jokingly suggested a few other fundraising options for the Hall, including convincing Jordan to hold public autographs sessions to benefit the Hall or perhaps setting up a pitch-and-putt golf course in the parking lot in honor of Jordan’s other favorite pastime.
Whatever they are, any fundraising ideas will have to be creative, as this isn’t exactly a great time to be asking for a lot of money. And the Hall is more than $4 million in the hole right now. Sadly, as big of a sum that seems to be, it’s only about 20% of what Stephon Marbury is making this year. Sigh.