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Volume 20 No. 46
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Hall looks to anniversary, new class for big ’14

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum posted a net loss of $3.06 million in 2012, according to its recently filed federal tax return, the ninth year in the red in the past 11 years for the baseball shrine. But the hall is eyeing a sharp turnaround in 2014 thanks to a yearlong celebration of its 75th anniversary and a stacked induction class this summer.

The fiscal loss for the Cooperstown, N.Y., hall during the year ended Dec. 31, 2012, grew by 47 percent, compared with a net loss of $2.08 million in 2011. Total revenue fell by 10 percent during the year to $8.3 million.

Admissions, the largest single chunk of the hall’s revenue, remains at a historically low point as the entire museum industry works to adapt to a new era in which visitors demand much more interactivity. Hall attendance in 2012 was 262,816, the lowest mark since the mid-1980s, with final 2013 numbers expected to sag further to about 253,000.

As has been the case in prior years, hall executives said the institution’s financial outlook remains stronger than what is visible in the tax return. Nonprofit accounting guidelines call for multiyear, charitable contributions to be recorded in the year they are pledged, as opposed to when they are actually received. As a result, there are differences between what appears in the tax return, and what is actually happening in terms of operating cash flow.

But hall executives acknowledged the steady decrease in visitors over the past decade has taken its toll.

“The consistent deficit is primarily linked to a comparable decline in attendance,” said Brad Horn, hall vice president of communications and education.

The hall hopes this year’s induction ceremony draws its biggest crowd since the 2007 event.
The hall is planning an extensive series of events this year for its 75th anniversary that should produce its largest attendance and cash flow in many years. Among the planned events are a Hall of Fame Classic in May featuring former stars, a rededication and member celebration in June to mark the museum’s natural 75th anniversary from its 1939 opening, induction weekend itself in late July, and a concert in August staged by LGH Productions that will include the Boston Pops and former New York Yankees outfielder and jazz guitarist Bernie Williams, among others.

The hall on Wednesday will announce the results of voting from the Baseball Writers Association of America for its 2014 inductees. A stacked ballot this year includes new potential inductees Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Tom Glavine, as well as holdovers such as Craig Biggio and Jack Morris. The hall’s Expansion Era Committee last month announced election results that will induct former managers Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox. As a result, the July induction ceremony is expected to garner its largest crowd since the 2007 event that drew more than 80,000 people.

“We’ll certainly have our largest induction since ’07, and this looks like it’s going to be one of those bigger years in terms of foot traffic and overall interest,” said Jeff Idelson, hall president.

The Baseball Hall of Fame will produce commemorative coins with the U.S. Mint to mark its 75th anniversary.
The hall, meanwhile, has struck deals with Little Brown to produce a commemorative 75th anniversary book this spring, and with the U.S. Mint to produce a series of commemorative coins for the anniversary. The coin program calls for the release of up to 50,000 $5 gold coins, 400,000 $1 silver coins, and 750,000 half-dollar clad coins, each sold with surcharges to support the nonprofit hall. Notably, the Hall of Fame coins will not be flat, but will feature concave and convex sides to more closely resemble the curvature of a baseball. This will be the first time the U.S. Mint has issued a curved coin.

The coin program is expected to generate at least several million dollars in additional revenue for the hall. If all 1.2 million coins sell, the hall will receive $9.5 million.

“It’s an important program for us, and one of those things that can really help extend the hall globally, as we’ve seen similar coin programs by other institutions have extensive international appeal,” Idelson said.

Idelson, the hall president since early 2008, earned $362,275 in total compensation during 2012, essentially flat from the year before.