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Archive for Sunday, August 31, 2008

Wichita billionaire’s donation bails out Kansas Sports Hall

August 31, 2008

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— Bill Koch was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2004, a recognition of his sailing career that included a 1992 win of the America's Cup.

The billionaire has returned the favor, donating $100,000 to the hall to keep it from being evicted for failing to pay rent in its city-owned building.

Hall President and Chief Executive Ted Hayes said Friday that the donation keeps the hall where it is and gives its leaders a chance to bolster its fundraising efforts.

"We are so grateful to Bill Koch for stepping up to the plate, once again, to help the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame through the financial difficulties we have experienced," Hayes said in a prepared statement.

Koch has now given the hall more than $500,000 in total.

The city could have evicted the hall on Sept. 5 if Hayes hadn't delivered the $97,600 payment Thursday.

The hall, which was in Lawrence in the 1970s and '80s, holds state-owned sports artifacts. It is attracting larger crowds every year, and Hayes estimated 18,000 people will visit by the end of the year.

Hayes said the hall, founded 47 years ago, is a state agency but has never received the level of state funding he said it deserves to receive but didn't necessarily blame lawmakers.

The hall must "do a much better job of communicating with legislators" on the need for state dollars, he said.

He said the 27,000-square-foot hall has a current annual budget of about $500,000, but it needs to be between $650,000 and $700,000. The last state appropriation was $250,000 in matching funds two years ago, he said.

Hayes said the hall is aggressively seeking to add members and renting out space for business meetings, a film festival and family reunions. In addition, a Topeka donor recently donated 50 non-Kansas sports items, including a baseball signed by Babe Ruth, which the hall plans to sell at auction to raise money.

"We want to make sure this never happens to us again," he said.

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