By a strange coincidence, two halls of fame are in the news this week, and the news ain't good. First, the National Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum, which opened in Oneonta, N.Y., in 1999, announced it would close to the public except on days when matches are being played on the surrounding fields. It will next open its doors Nov. 21-22, when the New York State Public High School Athletic Association holds its championships there. Then, yesterday, the College Football Hall of Fame announced it would move from South Bend, Ind., to Atlanta when its lease is up on Dec. 31, 2010.
In both cases, location seems to be the issue. The college football hall moved to South Bend in 1995 from Kings Mills, Ohio, hoping that proximity to Notre Dame would keep the cash registers ringing. Supporters had predicted 150,000 visitors a year there, but it has instead attracted about 60,000 visitors a year since 1996. The soccer hall's web site notes it opened in Oneonta because of the presence of Division I college soccer programs at Oneonta State and Hartwick College - uh-huh - as well as the nearby National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum located in Cooperstown.
Which brings up the obvious question: How in the world does the baseball hall of fame manage to attract 350,000 people a year to tiny, out-of-the-way Cooperstown? Even if you're a believer in the Ken Burns-Bob Costas-George Will axis of evil (pro football fan here), that's a pretty extraordinary number of people paying $16.50 apiece to stare at the George Brett pine-tar bat.