The Virginia Sports Hall of Fame is in discussions with Armada Hoffler Properties to relocate from its Portsmouth location to the resort city’s Town Center.
But beyond its decision to move, liberation from government assistance is what the organization is after.
“We do not believe subsidizing the Hall of Fame should be a priority of any city,” Joel Rubin, chair of the hall’s board, said in a news release. “We must take care of ourselves over the long run. It’s the fiscally responsible thing to do, and that is the direction we intend to pursue.”
The first step toward sustainability for the Hall of Fame doesn’t require a building, according to the release.
The Hall’s vision for Town Center is to create a pedestrian tour, with displays and “hall of honor” exhibits in business lobbies and various public spaces. It also wants to host live events, such as induction ceremonies, in the mixed-use area.
Stephanie Maheu, Armada Hoffler Properties spokesperson, was not available for comment before this story’s deadline.
“We are not leaving Portsmouth because of anything it did or did not do,” Rubin said. “We were encouraged, however, by the state through a one time incentive allocation of $750,000 to become financially sustainable, which we could not do operating a museum in Portsmouth.”
Today, the museum’s 3,500-square foot location in Portsmouth’s Olde Town is open three days a week, features a ‘skeletal’ staff and lacks funding for advertising and development.
This is the result of a shrunken city support over the years, according to the release. At a November city council meeting, Rubin said Elizabeth River Tunnel tolls and the lack of street traffic at its location are also contributing factors.
The museum plans to close its doors June 30 with the hope that a for-profit entity will buy the building and generate tax income for Portsmouth, according to the release. The building has a $3 million mortgage held by Towne Bank, and Rubin said he believes the building could sell for that amount.
No decisions have been made by Armada Hoffler Properties to incorporate the museum’s exhibits in its establishments and public areas. The Hall of Fame said it will provide updates on future plans as they are finalized.
“We have many great athletes, coaches and other contributors to honor moving forward as well as our past inductees. We do not need a museum to do that,” Rubin said in a statement.
“But we believe there is a hunger for induction events and other ‘in the moment’ sports programming that we are uniquely qualified to provide, and Town Center is the right place to deliver it.”
Eddie Webb, the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame’s president, was not available for comment.
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