Archive for Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Woodling: Topeka deserves shrine

August 12, 2008


Will someone take the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame? Please.

In the latest chapter of the saga involving the nomadic state shrine, the Wichita City Council voted unanimously last week to evict the hall from the city's Old Town section for failure to pay $97,000 in back rent.

Is this the end of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame as we know it?

If not, it should be.

Anyone who thinks the state sports shrine can operate as a self-sufficient museum is delusional. If you build it, they will not come. That's been proven.

Created by the state legislature as part of the Kansas Centennial celebration in 1961, the shrine languished on the Topeka Fairgrounds until 1972, when Walt Cragan, a Douglas County commissioner, was instrumental in moving it to the Elizabeth M. Watkins Museum in downtown Lawrence.

While here, the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame ranked on the same level of tourist popularity with the steam engine in Watson Park, the Haskell rail trail and the Bowersock dam.

Upgrading the exhibits in 1981 did little to enhance the shrine's cachet. Finally, in 1989, the Douglas County Historical Society issued an eviction notice, saying it needed the space in the Watkins Museum - a curious decision, in retrospect, because that space was never filled. Still, few complained when the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame moved into its new home in Abilene in 1990.

Why Abilene? Well, at that time, Abilene fancied itself as the Tourist Capital of the Sunflower State, with the Eisenhower Museum, the Greyhound Hall of Fame and the Museum of Telephony already functioning. In theory, the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame would give Abilene one more reason for tourists to stop.

So much for that idea. More longhorn cattle may have come up the Chisholm Trail to the Abilene railhead during the 19th century than visited the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame during its dozen years in Ike's hometown.

The hall's board trustees bolted Abilene for Wichita in 2002. Reason: low attendance.

At the time, moving to the state's largest city made sense. More people meant the potential for more visitors, not to mention the possibility of attracting corporate donors. Now, after spending half as much time in Wichita as it did in Abilene, the future of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in doubt.

Where could it go if it fails in Wichita? Back to Topeka, that's where. What goes around comes around. The Kansas Sports Hall of Fame could - and should - be incorporated into the Kansas Museum of History at the intersection of I-70 and I-470 on the western edge of the Capital City.

The transition could be made without constructing an addition to the state museum. The sports shrine could be squeezed into the existing structure by displaying only the most relevant exhibits. Meanwhile, the names of the 160-plus members and a brief biography of each could be available via an interactive computer set-up.

The Kansas Sports Hall of Fame never will make it as a stand-alone attraction. That's pretty clear after 47 years. So box it up and ship it to the Topeka museum where it belongs.


TopekaBlade 9 years, 8 months ago

So--you think an idea that hasn't worked so far should be dumped on someone else? Perhaps you should read the J-W editorial and consider that an overhaul of the mission of the Sports Hall and living within reasonable means instead of doing something and hoping someone will pick up the tab isn't the way to run this organization.First, Mr. Woodling, you might want to learn something about the organizations you stop short of trashing in this piece, and understand how they use their spaces. Because there are no exhibits does not mean a space is not being used. I've been critical of the Watkins before, but using the space the Hall took up as meeting space has worked well for them. It gets people into the building, for starters.But you top this by suggesting that the Kansas Museum of History could provide a home by "squeezing in" the hall and "keeping only relevant exhibits." I'm not sure if you mean the Hall's exhibits or the Museum's exhibits, but I'm sure you've already made up your mind as to what a relevant exhibit is. Do not be surprised if others do not agree with you.No, the Sports Hall would do well to aim lower in it's expectations before anything else is done. But shut it down before you stick this albatross with someone else.

Jim Williamson 9 years, 8 months ago

Has it occurred to anyone that maybe Kansans just don't give a rat's rear end about having a sports hall of fame?

Confrontation 9 years, 8 months ago

Topeka does deserve a shrine. Perhaps a shrine to felonies or a shrine to citizens who commit crimes in Lawrence?

wysiwyg69 9 years, 8 months ago

sports may be hitting the wall as you use to know it. hopefully people will quit putting so much into sports figures pockets and and spend their money a little more wisely!

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