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Volume 20 No. 42
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Attendance slides again but donations increase at Baseball Hall of Fame

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum posted a net loss of $2.36 million in 2010, according to its recently filed tax return, its seventh such loss in nine years as the baseball shrine continues to show a slow, steady attendance decline.

The loss for the Cooperstown, N.Y., hall during the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2010, was narrowed by 45 percent compared with the $4.3 million loss posted in 2009. Total revenue during the year grew 25 percent to $8.6 million, thanks in large part to a sizable increase in charitable contributions and grants.

But admissions continue to show weakness. Museum attendance has slid from 352,000 in 2007 to 301,755 in 2008, 289,000 in 2009, 281,000 in 2010, and a projected figure of between 265,000 and 270,000 for 2011. Annual attendance topped 400,000 in peak years of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Hall executives, however, said the institution’s overall financial outlook is stronger than what appears in the tax return. 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, and what is actually happening in terms of operating cash flow.

For example, the hall reported record revenue of $20.79 million in 2007, in part due to the pledging of some large planned donations with multiyear distributions.

“We feel we are still in good shape and continue to plan aggressively,” said Brad Horn, the hall’s senior director of communications and education.

Among recent initiatives, hall executives last month packed up the plaques of four hall of famers from Puerto Rico and took them to several cities on the island as part of an outreach tour. The institution this past summer also opened a new archival center devoted to researching the office of MLB commissioners and named it for Bud Selig, the current commissioner.

On the personnel side, Jeff Idelson, hall president since early 2008, earned $354,673 in total compensation during 2010, essentially flat from $353,711 the year before.