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08.11.05: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium among 'shrines' on pigskin 'tour'
08.10.05: 'Cock-n-Fire' offense may stay in holster awhile
08.09.05: Radio/TV station rolling out preseason special on Pirates ... Alleged felons pin leniency promise on Spurrier
08.08.05: Charlotte, UNC- Wilmington selected to BCA field ... Former Pirates steer kids toward better FUTURE
08.07.05: Texas Tech's Knight getting real about tryouts ... Stokes' ties to Wake prodigies sway ECU recruit
08.06.05: Stokes' ties to Deacon prodigies sway recruit ... Holtz: ECU must make up ground before opener
08.05.05: "Pirate Talk" gets more time, more stations ... Pirate Radio 1250 launching expanded lineup
08.04.05: College life still suits Heisman winner just fine
08.03.05: NIT battles NCAA in court instead of on court
08.02.05: C-USA to feel impact of imported WAC teams
08.01.05: Demand swamps supply of Gamecock tickets


News Nuggets, 08.12.05
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South Bend at odds with Hall of Fame over $$$

SOUTH BEND — When people think of South Bend, IN, they often think of college football — as in Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, the Gipper and other greats at Notre Dame.

The College Football Hall of Fame moved to the city in 1995 for that very reason, hoping to take advantage of its proximity to the Golden Dome.

A decade later, the crowds haven't materialized as expected, and with the hall's contract set to expire at the end of the year, some question whether the hall should remain.

Critics contend the hall has drained city coffers with no sign of a turnaround. They say the Morristown, NJ-based National Football Foundation, which took over the hall's operations five years ago, needs to contribute more under a new five-year contract being negotiated.

When the hall opened, proponents predicted it would attract more than 150,000 visitors a year. Instead, just over 60,000 are showing up each year, and last year's deficit was more than $64,000 — very different from about a $400,000 annual profit predicted a decade ago.

``They have steadfastly refused to enter into the realm of fund-raising on their own behalf,'' city Councilman David Varner said. ``They simply demand that we fund them as if they were this 200,000-visitors-a-year attraction for the city of South Bend.''

NFF officials say they've already done more than required — the foundation has contributed $1.9 million toward the hall's operation, even though its original contract did not require contributions. And supporters say the facility, which will enshrine 20 former football greats this weekend, adds luster to the city, much as art museums do.

``South Bend is where it belongs,'' said former Gov. Joe Kernan, who was instrumental in bringing the hall to the city as mayor.

Karen Bednarski, executive director of the International Association of Sports Museums and Halls of Fame, said the hall's problems are typical.

Bednarski said organizers of such museums often think location will draw in visitors, only to be disappointed. That was the case, she said, when she was director of the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, FL, during 1996-2001.

The Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA, saw attendance fall more than 40,000 from 1995 to 1999. Attendance at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, dropped by nearly 130,000 after the 1994-95 major league strike.

``I think a lot of halls of fame ended up with studies that said X number of people would come, and then it just doesn't happen,'' she said. ``I think there is so much competition for recreation dollars today that you can't just assume because there is a lot of drive-by traffic that people will stop.''

The football hall struggled even before it moved to South Bend. Low attendance and financial problems marked its 1978-92 run next to the Kings Island amusement park in suburban Cincinnati.

South Bend leaders believed the hall's location — two miles from the Notre Dame campus — would prove so popular that they agreed to pay for the building and let the hall use it rent- and tax-free. They believed corporate sponsorships would help repay the borrowed funds and claimed no taxpayer money would be needed.

Those sponsorships never came about, and the city is paying $1.4 million a year through 2017 on the bonds for the building. City spending on the hall's operating costs has climbed in recent years. Last year, it gave the hall $831,000 for exhibits and marketing.

Football foundation chairman Jon F. Hanson said the group was trying to turn the hall around.

But he believes the city has problems of its own, including the negative attitude some officials have toward the hall. That doesn't stop Councilman Derek Dieter, who thinks the hall should accept an offer by the mayor of Arlington, TX, to move there.

``I wish it would move to Texas today,'' he said.

This year, the city cut funding to the hall for the first time, dropping it to $625,000. Varner plans to recommend another reduction this year.

South Bend Mayor Steve Luecke, a hall supporter, said he believes the hall will stay put and that the NFF will take on a bigger role in creating revenue.

``I think you'll see more special-event types of things that also will look to generate some additional revenues for the hall,'' he said.

News Nuggets are compiled periodically based on material supplied by staff members; data published by ECU, Conference USA and its member schools; and reports from Associated Press and other sources. Copyright 2005 and other publishers. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Page Updated: 02/23/2007 12:27 PM


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