From Topeka and Lawrence to Abilene to Wichita's Old Town, the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame wandered around the state looking for a stable home.
Perhaps Monday's ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Wichita Boathouse is the start of a permanent solution for the non-profit organization.
"This is a big day for us," said Ted Hayes, president and chief executive officer of the hall of fame. "There is a passion for the Boathouse, and it is a beautiful facility that adds the prestige the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame deserves."
About 50 people attended the morning ceremony, which took place on the steps on the front of the building on the east bank of the Arkansas River in the WaterWalk development. The speeches celebrated the opening of the hall of fame and the revival of the boathouse, thanks to $650,000 from billionaire Bill Koch to renovate the building.
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Koch is also leasing the building from the city of Wichita for $1 a year for 99 years, giving the Hall of Fame an affordable home. The exhibits are on the first floor. The second floor will be used for receptions and dinners, providing the hall money. Hayes said the building has hosted 19 events since June and 36 are scheduled in coming months. The hall left its Old Town home in 2009 after nearly defaulting on rent payments.
"We saved a lot of money (on rent)," Hayes said. "There's two ways to get finances. One is to cut costs and the other is increase income. This will give us an opportunity to do both."
Admission will be free to the Boathouse, site of the portraits of the Hall of Fame inductees and other exhibits displayed over 4,000 square feet. The hall also operates the Kansas Sports Museum in Newton with many of its college and high school exhibits in a 22,000-square foot building.
"This is another good day for downtown," Mayor Carl Brewer said. "This facility is more proof that we're gaining momentum in our effort to enhance downtown Wichita's reputation as a destination for our residents, businesses and visitors."
With the prospect of a stable future, Hayes wants the Hall of Fame to improve its financial picture with an endowment campaign and devote more resources to education.
"We have the greatest role models in the world," he said. "These guys have stories to tell that kids need to hear. That's an area where we just have not done a good job."
The Kansas Legislature created the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1961 as part of the Kansas Centennial Celebration but provided no permanent funding for it. The current museum opened in 1997 in Abilene and moved to Wichita in 2002. The Old Town museum did not open until 2005 due to a lack of funding.