Topeka The Kansas Sports Hall of Fame scored a decisive victory Wednesday against the protests of university and college chiefs, including Kansas University Chancellor Robert Hemenway.
The hall, located in Abilene, had threatened to shut down March 1 due to lack of funds.
But on Wednesday, the House Tourism Committee approved a bill that would impose a $1 surcharge on tickets to designated athletic events at public universities and community colleges. Revenue from the surcharge would go to the Sports Hall of Fame. Student tickets would be exempt from the charge.
The measure, backed by House Majority Leader Shari Weber, R-Herington, will now go to the full House for consideration.
Ted Hayes, executive director of the hall, said that the committee's approval gives the facility additional life for now. An Abilene foundation, he said, would continue funding to keep the doors open.
But, he said, if the Legislature fails to approve the measure, the hall will have to close.
Hemenway and the five other university presidents signed a letter opposing the bill. The Kansas Association of Community Colleges Trustees also opposed it. Among public colleges, only Washburn University supported the measure.
But while the KU administration opposed the bill, one of the school's alumni Otto Schnellbacher testified in favor of it.
Schnellbacher, a member of the KU and Kansas sports halls of fame, said the bill was needed to keep open a facility that was important for showcasing the state's rich sports history.
"We need a better image," said Schnellbacher, who played football and basketball at KU and later played professionally.
KU officials had earlier said they already voluntarily provided funding to the hall through a surcharge on tickets at designated Hall of Fame games. In 2001, KU donated $56,309.
But other schools either did not participate in the funding or drastically reduced their contributions.
According to statistics provided by Weber's office, Kansas State University contributed $8,000 last year from Hall of Fame games, down from a high of $47,456 in 1996.
Weber said that during the past decade, the Hall of Fame has been on a funding roller coaster and needed a permanent source of income. The surcharge would produce from $130,000 to $200,000 per year, she said.
The measure would impose a $1 surcharge at the schools on one football game, one men's basketball game and one women's varsity game per season. Because Wichita State does not have a football team, WSU would designate a baseball game. Each university can select the specific games to designate for the surcharge.
Staff writer Scott Rothschild can be reached at (785) 354-4222.