On May 6, 2008, the Sports Museum of America (SmA) opened in lower Manhattan with great fanfare. SmA partnered with more than 50 single sport Halls of Fame and other athletic organizations to showcase treasured memorabilia and exhibits and to tell the stories of our sports heroes through interactive exhibits and videos. Partners include the National Basketball Hall of Fame, NASCAR, the United States Tennis Association, USA Track & Field, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the United States Golf Association, USA Hockey and of course, the World Figure Skating Museum & Hall of Fame. In addition to hosting the first women's sports hall of fame, SmA is also the new home of the Billie Jean King International Women's Sports Center and the legendary Heisman Trophy. Founded by Philip Schwalb and Sameer Ahuja, SmA is the U.S.'s first museum of its kind to bring together over 25 different sports under one roof.
I attended both the opening ceremony and the evening gala and what a thrill it was to see our sports heroes from all disciplines gathered together! The opening ceremony started off with a welcome by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. The emcee for the event was none other than Jim Craig, goalie for the United States in the Miracle on Ice, when the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team defeated the team from the Soviet Union. (Remember the line "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" It came from sportcaster Al Michaels calling the game.) Jim introduced Eli Manning, Rick Barry, Bonnie Blair, Dick Button, Bud Collins, Bob Cousy, Tony Dorsett, Walt Frazier, Camille Duvall-Hero, Ron Harper, Bruce Jenner, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Pat LaFontaine, Patrick McEnroe, Carl Lewis, Charles Smith, John Starks, and many more figures who've made significant contributions to their respective sports.
Inside SmA, visitors are greeted with the first gallery entitled "Dreaming Big," which shows videos and photographs of athletes, such as Magic Johnson, Venus Williams, and Michelle Kwan, in their youth. There is also an immersion theater that wraps around the room where you can see gymnast Kerri Strug's famous vault from the 1996 Olympic Summer Games and Hank Aaron's 715th home run, among others, in a very high tech environment. Visitors are also treated to lots and lots of treasured memorabilia and artifacts, such as Jackie Robinson's cap, and the U.S.A. flag that Jim Craig wrapped around him after his team defeated the Soviet Union.
The figure skating section includes a nice tribute to 2002 Olympic gold medalist Sarah Hughes, great video of Michelle Kwan, and displays of Kristi Yamaguchi's skating dress at the 1992 Winter Olympics where she won gold, Sasha Cohen's skates from the 2006 Winter Olympics, and Dick Button's figure skating jacket. Hockey great Pat LaFontaine also said some nice words about figure skating when I spoke with him. Overall, they did a great job for the figure skating fan, and I also used the opportunity to roam around and learn about fishing, softball and NASCAR!
I'll be back with some great footage from the opening night gala, which was attended by sports and nonsports celebrities. For all you Oksana Baiul fans, she promised to speak to me first at the press line, because as she puts it, "You're a figure skater, you're my people."
Sports Museum of America
New York, NY 10004
Admission prices (hold onto your hats, this is not cheap)
Adults (15-59): $27
Seniors (60+) and students: $24
Children (4-14): $20
Children under 4: FREE