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Hall of Fame funding is a critical, unresolved detail

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Editorial: June 24, 2011

The issue:  Basketball Hall of Fame
Our view: Don't let dreams cloud details

Elizabethtown Mayor Tim Walker recently appointed three key individuals to a committee charged with moving negotiations forward regarding the potential of Elizabethtown becoming the site for a Kentucky high school basketball hall of fame. City Planning Director Ed Poppe, Heritage Council Director Heath Seymour and former chamber of commerce Executive Director Rik Hawkins were selected for the task. They will work with representatives from the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches.

Earlier this year, KABC officials approached Elizabethtown City Council requesting the city partner with the association to host a Hall of Fame. The idea is a destination museum honoring distinguished high school players and coaches with displays and exhibits from storied teams, programs and communities that tell  of prep hoops across the state.

From among a list of 16 potential sites, the group enthusiastically identified Elizabethtown as its host community of choice.

With our comfortable hometown feel, central location in the heart of the state and convenient access to major thoroughfares connecting each corner of the Commonwealth, it’s easy to understand why KABC is eager to bring a hall of fame to the city. What haven’t been as easy to understand, though, are the details of exactly what they want.

We know that KABC would like to have a facility providing 3,000- to 4,000 square feet, including space for a theater. It would like the museum to be positioned downtown to complement and capitalize on other amenities there such as the the Historic State Theater and Hardin County History Museum. And, it would like it to be ready to open its doors to visitors by 2018 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of organized high school basketball in Kentucky with an inaugural group of 100 inductees.

Having Elizabethtown become the site of such an attraction is a great idea. Clearly, downtown area use such development, too. And the recent purchase of properties by the city for redevelopment could ideally tie with such an opportunity as this. But footing the entire bill for such an endeavor wouldn’t be ideal.

Poppe, Seymour and Hawkins are encouraged to work closely with their counterparts on the committee to clearly identify not just where such a facility would ideally work in the city’s downtown district, but more importantly who pays for its initial development and operating costs. Preferably, that would be KABC and other private donors underwriting its costs.

Elizabethtown could be one such entity among others, but should not be the sole funding source for the Hall of Fame.
Hal Smith, president of the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame, encouraged steering committee members not to limit their brainstorming or consideration of facilities by saying, “take your blinders off and dream.”

The devil in such endeavors is always in the details. With that in mind, let’s not let any initial dream become a future nightmare.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.