The Sports Museum of America Closed With Little Fordham Fanfare

If a Sports Museum Opened in New York City and No One Came to Visit, Did the Museum Ever Exist?


Published: March 12, 2009

The Sports Museum of America located in Manhattan’s Financial District, locked its doors on Feb. 20, but they didn’t throw away the key just yet. The $57 million museum was opened in May 2008 in hopes to restore some of the economic trouble New York has had since 9/11. Facing financial problems since construction, however, the museum never took off and closed after just nine months.

When Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) sports fans were asked about the news, the results were surprising and unfortunate. As suspected, hardly anyone ever heard of the Sports Museum but sports fans seemed intrigued by the notion.

Lisa Madalone, FCLC ’09, is an avid sports fan and has even visited the Cooperstown Women in Baseball attraction. When asked if she has ever visited the Sports Museum of America, Madalone said, “Wait, what? There’s a Sports Museum of America in New York? I had no idea. If they had advertised more I probably would have went to see what it was all about.”

Madalone’s statement was a reflection of the general response of students at FCLC in reaction to the museum’s closing. Sports fans believe the museum just lacked advertising funds to promote the three-story, attraction-filled space.

Considering all the circumstances, the Sports Museum of America seemed destined to fail. The for-profit museum had its grand opening while the nation’s entire economy was beginning to crumble. Its pre-opening $27 admission price was a tad too steep for any struggling New Yorker to justify paying. One of its largest attractions was a NASCAR simulation, which might be cool, but New York is not known for its huge NASCAR fan base. The museum’s construction even ran over budget, which cut into expenses for marketing and advertising.  All of these factors from the very start predicted the Sports Museum of America’s fate.

Despite these reasons, New York seems like the perfect city in which to incorporate a national museum for sports. Other New York museums have been crowd-drawing in the past. Museums for art and science are popular places to visit for most New Yorkers, which would infer that the nation’s first and only all-sport museum would do well in the Big Apple. However, most of the non-profit museums in New York are popular because they are an inexpensive way to spend an afternoon soaking up knowledge and history. Even after price cuts from $27 to $24 to all the way down to $16, the Sports Museum of America failed to capture the attention of sports fans.

“It’s too bad I never heard about the museum,” said Danielle Heineman, FCLC ’10. “I probably would have made the trip to see the Heisman [Trophy] if there was some more publicity for it.”

A lack of advertising can’t be the only factor attributed to the museum’s doom. The museum’s low turn-out of guests due to unreasonable prices and a struggling economy must have forced people to go without, thus causing its failure. A possible underlying cause is the fact that sports fans are more interested in the present and future of their teams, rather than the history of all sports in general. There are not many people who are sports fans in general, but rather fans of certain sports and specific teams.

“I would rather pay $25 to visit a New York Mets or New York Islanders museum than $16 for a museum [in which] I may not find many things interesting,” said Frank Marino, FCLC ’09. “I think that specific, smaller-scale museums would fare better in New York, focusing on teams over sports in general. I don’t feel many people relate to all sports; they like to stick with their own teams.”

Representatives and former employees were unavailable for comment, and the Sports Museum’s Web site has been shut down. The museum is under $10 million worth of debt. If any of you lucky Fordham students have $10 million lying around, the museum is searching for a new owner.