Sports Museum of America
The Sports Museum of America (SmA) was the United States' first national sports museum dedicated to the history and cultural significance of sports in America. It opened in May 2008 and closed less than nine months later, in February 2009.
The museum was at 26 Broadway, in Lower Manhattan across from Bowling Green. The museum contributed to the revitalization of the area following the events of September 11, 2001, as it was situated footsteps from the Statue of Liberty Ferry, near Wall Street and the former site of the World Trade Center.
From the idea's inception, in September 2001 following founder Philip Schwalb's visit to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the museum was anticipated to celebrate all sports, and the Canyon of Heroes where New York City's famed ticker tape parades originated, was an ideal location. A decision was made to be a commercial organization, rather than a non-profit as most museums are, due to a desire to participate in New York's post 9/11 Liberty Bond financing program (available only to for-profit business). Ultimately the museum received support from the requisite government officials, most importantly in the form of Liberty Bonds issued by the City and the State to support projects aiding in the revitalization of Lower Manhattan.
The Sports Museum of America became the nation's first major museum celebrating all sports: it featured more than 20 original sports films and housed more than 1,100 photographs and 800 artifacts. In addition to becoming the official home of the Heisman Trophy and its annual presentation, the museum also housed the first ever Women's Sports Hall of Fame. Among its Board of Directors were Mario Andretti, Martina Navratilova, Joe Frazier, Bob Cousy, Billie Jean King, Paul Hornung, and 50 other Hall of Fame athletes.
Schwalb raised $93 million over a three-year period to finance the museum, which included the aforementioned $57 million in Liberty Bonds issued to keep downtown businesses thriving after the attacks, as well as $36 million in private funds. To ensure the museum was collaborative, Schwalb struck agreements with 60 non-profit partners, including every major sports hall of fame in North America and every notable national sports governing body (e.g. USTA, USGA, U.S. Soccer, USA Hockey). Schwalb also secured over 200 private investors, primarily Wall Street executives, to finance the museum––getting them to agree to donate 2% of revenues to charity.
Opening on May 7, 2008 to much fanfare at 26 Broadway in the former Standard Oil headquarters, the museum abounded in interactive exhibits. Nearly 100 hall of fame athletes attended the opening, and speakers included Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Billie Jean King speaking on behalf of the Women's Sports Foundation, Tony Dorsett speaking on behalf of the Heisman Trophy and New York's Super Bowl winning quarterback, Eli Manning. The museum's location, at the end of the Canyon of Heroes ticker tape parades, was close to the heavily visited ferry to the Statue of Liberty.
The special event space on the second floor of the museum featured a mural tribute to all of sports by famed sports artist LeRoy Neiman.The Museum became the official home of the Heisman Trophy and the Women's Sports Foundation International Women's Sports Hall of Fame within the Billie Jean King International Women's Sports Center. Like dozens of other sports halls of fame and museums, the National Baseball Hall of Fame had loaned numerous artifacts, and - in addition to all the partner halls of fame, artifacts were also secured via private collectors.
Despite an award-winning reception, including Nickelodeon's Parents' Pick award for best museum in New York City for children, and its high tech interactive exhibits, the museum was criticized for its relatively nondescript entrance in the Standard Oil Building due to landmark restrictions. Attendance lagged far behind the predicted 800,000 a year. At the height of the economic recession in February 2009, the museum (located one block from the New York Stock Exchange ) closed.
In an effort to be truly national and collaborative in its representation of all sports, the Museum partnered with more than 60 sporting organizations throughout the United States, and the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto (with 30 of those signed up to participate when the idea for the museum was still just an idea). Exclusive Partners included:
On February 20, 2009, the museum closed its doors, citing low attendance, and $6 million in cost overruns. Management blamed the recession and the related atmosphere in the Lower Manhattan/Wall Street area. The final tally in overall monies devoted to the effort was $93 million.
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