SBJ/20110103/This Week's Issue

Baseball HOF calls financial outlook strong

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum posted a net loss of $4.3 million in 2009, according to its recently filed tax return, its sixth such loss in eight years as the baseball shrine grappled with declining donations, attendance and overall revenue.

The Cooperstown, N.Y.-based hall generated $6.9 million in revenue for the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2009, a 31 percent drop from the prior year and roughly a third of its record $20.79 million reported for 2007. The $4.3 million net loss is a 79 percent increase from the $2.4 million loss in 2008.

The continued fall in revenue and profit stems from several factors: attendance that fell from 301,755 in 2008 to 289,000 in 2009; charitable contributions and grants that shrank from $2.8 million in 2008 to $1.6 million in 2009; and licensing royalties that fell from $1.1 million to $200,832.

Hall executives, however, said the institution's overall financial outlook remains strong. Nonprofit accounting guidelines call for multiyear, charitable contributions to be recorded in the year they are pledged. As a result, there are differences between the apparent financial health of the museum as outlined in the tax return and what is actually happening in terms of operating cash flow.

"Our 990 is a snapshot in time, and in 2009 certainly was impacted by fluctuations in attendance and related revenue," said Brad Horn, the hall's senior director for communications and education. "But we're much more focused on the big picture, and with that, we are not concerned. What occurred in 2009 did not affect what we've done in 2010 in terms of programming and museum hours and such, and what we have planned going into 2011."

Horn additionally branded 2009 a "pivot year" with regard to licensing, and said a new partnership with CMG Worldwide struck in July 2010 will likely show higher revenue there in future tax returns.

The hall continues to pursue new events and programming in an effort to boost fan interest in its mission of preserving baseball history and honoring excellence in the sport. July's annual induction ceremonies, marking the yearly peak of fan visitation and interest in the hall, will be altered to include a parade of living hall of fame members and a new, separate ceremony devoted to its writing and broadcasting honorees.

Museum attendance for 2010 was about 281,000.

Jeff Idelson, hall president since early 2008, earned $353,711 in total compensation during 2009, up from $304,515 the year before.

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