Monday, October 15, 2007
Sports hall of fame proposed for Paddock Arcade
Watertown sports aficionados plan to create a hall of fame anchored around the nation's oldest semiprofessional football team in the oldest continually operating mall.
Members of the city sports community and the owners of the Paddock Arcade want to create a gallery for sports memorabilia dedicated to Watertown's past and present semiprofessional teams, said city Councilman Timothy R. LaBouf.
The mayoral contender announced the plan at a meeting Wednesday originally scheduled as a public appearance for his campaign.
Two or three storefronts on the second floor of the 157-year-old building will be earmarked for the hall, said Donald G.M. Coon III, managing partner of 200 Washington Street Associates, which owns the building.
"I can provide the bricks and mortar, but you need to get the nuts and bolts together," Mr. Coon said.
Red and Black coach George Ashcraft and Wizards president Paul A. Simmons both attended the Wednesday meeting with Mr. LaBouf. They agreed there's plenty of sports history in Watertown to fill the donated space.
"We could make this whatever we want it to be," Mr. Ashcraft said. "I'm telling you, people will come to see it."
The two chunky gold rings on the coach's left hand are small pieces of memorabilia the team has collected since its inception in 1896. A majority of the plaques, pictures and trophies owned by the Red and Black are kept in a locked office at Salmon Run Mall. Other pieces are being stored piecemeal in homes throughout the area.
Mr. Ashcraft said that if the hall comes to fruition, it would bring all Red and Black memorabilia together and could be expanded to include other semiprofessional football teams throughout the country.
"Some of these teams have their own hall of fames," he said. "But I don't want to have a hall of fame in Sarasota; I want it to be here in Watertown, New York."
The American Football Association holds an annual hall of fame induction dinner in Sarasota, Fla.
Included in the hall also would be the former Watertown Indians and Pirates semi-pro baseball teams and current Watertown Wizards collegiate baseball team.
Mr. Simmons said he could try to get a group of former players to the gallery for public appearances.
"There's been a huge following of sports in Watertown for a long time," he said. "It's nuts what the sports teams have been doing here."
Mr. LaBouf said he'll pass the idea around the community to gather support. The councilman said the project will be pursued throughout and after the Nov. 6 elections.
"Maybe I can't be the one who knows how to do this, but I can bring the people together who know the answers," he said.
Other sports-based business would follow once the gallery built a base, Mr. Ashcraft said.
"If I'm selling sports cards, I know I'm moving next door to where the hall of fame is," he said.
Richard G. Warner, of Warner Construction, said he will donate time and materials. The group will meet in a week to further discuss the project.
Mr. Warner, who is a Red and Black Hall of Fame inductee, said he'll discuss the idea with other members to boost support.