SBD/Issue 158/Events & Attractions

Stars In City Lights: Sports Museum Of America Opens In N.Y.

(l to r) Schwelb, Eli Manning, Mario
Andretti And King At Museum Opening
The $100M Sports Museum of America (SmA), the first all-sports museum in the U.S., opened today in N.Y. The 45,000-square-foot facility includes 28,000 square feet of exhibition space, a retail center and a special events area. Admission is $27 for adults, $24 for seniors or students and $20 for children 4-14. SmA Founder & CEO Philip Schwalb has partnered with more than 50 sports organizations including HOFs, other museums and national governing bodies (SmA). Schwalb expects SmA to "draw nearly one million visitors a year." In N.Y., Wayne Coffey noted the museum has a staff of 120, 800 artifacts in 19 galleries and offers "more high-tech, interactive stuff than a spaceship." SmA also is home to the Billie Jean King Int'l Women's Sports Center, serves as the permanent home of the Heisman Trophy and each December will host the annual Heisman Trophy presentation (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/4).

ATTRACTIONS: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes SmA's purpose is to "exalt sports by using modern museum technology and display artistry, and to provide a big-city location in a tourist mecca for fans resistant to driving" to other sports HOFs. Some of SmA's interactivity is "simple, like calling up the statistics and biographies of Olympians on touch screens." Others are "more involving, like donning a goalie's mask to feel the sensation of a puck flying at your face." The museum also offers an "immersion theater, with its 10-foot-high, 65-foot-long screen that wraps nearly halfway around the room," in which producers have made video footage "thrillingly new by splitting them into five or six smaller screens, juxtaposing film, video and photos, backed by the narration of Dick Enberg, with his classic big-game voice" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/7).

Navratilova One Of Many Athletes
Involved With Sports Museum
FOR PROFIT: On Long Island, Neil Best wrote "unlike most of its counterparts," SmA is a for-profit enterprise. The "majority of its rotating collection will be on loan from non-profit museums, as well as individual athletes and governing bodies." Schwalb: "It's a totally unique and never-been-done-before animal." SmA received $57M in "triple tax exempt Liberty Bonds" and raised the other $43M privately. Best noted setting the museum up as a for-profit enterprise "allowed the museum to open more quickly than it would have, but there are costs that come with that," including the admission fee. But Schwalb said the price is "very much the going rate" for such an attraction. Schwalb said that some of the planned artifacts have "not been publicly on display before," including the flag former U.S. Olympic hockey player Jim Craig wore in '80 after the U.S. defeated Finland to win the gold medal. Schwalb has gotten "numerous A-list athletes involved," including Pele, Basketball HOFer Bob Cousy, Tennis HOFer Martina Navratilova and former U.S. Olympic track star Carl Lewis (NEWSDAY, 5/6). 

TEAMMATES: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Daniel Kaplan reports more than 200 "Wall Street executives invested" in SmA. The museum, which is donating 2% of its gross ticket sales to charity, expects to add an additional $4-5M from hospitality and catering. It also is "budgeting slightly more than" $1M from principal sponsors Cisco and American Airlines (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/5 issue). Blackrock co-Founder & President Robert Kapito, the largest single investor in SmA, said, "We’re going to look to make sure that we’re donating to charity ... because the investors here didn’t just invest for a good return. They invested because they made their money -- a lot of them -- in the Wall Street area. They wanted to give back.” Kapito: “I think the average return here would be a three-to-five year return, but the commitment from the investors is to really plow money back in here” (CNBC, 5/5).

SPONSORS: BRANDWEEK's Barry Janoff notes while "numerous other companies are interested in partnerships," SmA VP/Marketing & Sales John Paul Basile said, "We have to be smart about how we tie in sponsors. Each sport and (participating) [HOF] and museum has their own partners. So instead of a sponsor for the baseball exhibit, for example, we would look for someone to sponsor great coaches or women in sports." SmA's lead agency is The Gate World Wide, N.Y., while Octagon, N.Y., has "been working to secure corporate partners" (BRANDWEEK, 5/5 issue). 

Renderings Of Several Exhibits In Sports Museum

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