The temptation might be to lay the blame at the doorstep of a staggering economy, but the explanation for the closing of the well-capitalized Sports Museum of America in New York City after only 10 months of operation is probably more complicated than that.
With a reported $93-million financing, it would have seemed like a good candidate to buck conventional wisdom that has always held that building a tourist attraction in a museum setting can be a tricky business. It should be noted that the official announcement said that the museum’s founder and CEO, Phil Schwalb, was hoping to find a new buyer who would re-open the facility in Lower Manhattan.
All the traditional suspects are being paraded around as culprits for the demise, but I can’t shake the more simplified explanation that: a) Museums are a tough proposition; and b) Multi-sport undertakings are even tougher.
base this on little more than my years of experience in sports in general and our hobby in particular, but I truly believe that to have a chance at all a museum would probably have the best chance with a particular focus, if not exclusive but certainly a clear-cut emphasis on a particular sport.
Hell, if Barry Halper couldn’t engineer to get his fabled collection (shown here) planted in a museum even with his legendary accumulation, what chance do others have? I understand the idea that appealing to the broadest possible base seems attractive, but I fear that people balk at going to museums out of a sense that a significant portion of the facility is aimed at interests outside their own. Still, having said that, I can't help but root for the success of another multi-sport museum on the West Coast, Gary Cypres' incredible Sports Museum of Los Angeles. It's slated to re-open this summer, and I've gotta tell you that it's a must-see for anybody even remotely connected to or interested in our hobby.
Even when I’m at one of my favorite places on Earth, the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, I’ve got to admit that there are a number of sections at that bit of hallowed ground that don’t ring my chimes in the same fashion as others. Still, I think it helps enormously that the site itself is so utterly linked solely to the National Pastime.
And I add this as not necessarily significant as far as I know, but still worth reporting, that the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown was perhaps the most prominent major museum that had not entered into any kind of consignment arrangement with the New York City venture, despite being only about four hours away up the Thruway.