NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Taxpayers Fund "Halls Of Fame"

April 4, 2003

As if multimillion dollar sports arenas were not enough, taxpayers in cities and towns across America are being hit up for funds to build local "Halls of Fame." Sponsors promise that they will instill civic pride, bring in tourist cash and create jobs. But economists warn civic boosters not to count on the promised economic and job benefits.

Some of the projects under consideration would be laughable, if they were not so wasteful and expensive, critics point out.

  • Boosters in Buffalo, N.Y., want townspeople to build a $10 million National Comedy Hall of Fame.
  • Springfield, Mass., has spent $45 million on its Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame; and Nashville, Tenn., has its $37 million Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
  • Then there's the $27 million National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, as well as proposals for an $85 million Grammy Exposition and Hall of Fame in New Orleans.
  • A group of ukulele enthusiasts are trying to establish a Ukulele Hall of Fame -- not in Hawaii, but in New England, of all places.

Just about to be unveiled in Arnolds Park, Iowa, is the Iowa Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. Cleveland has had its Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 1994.

The millions needed to build these pop culture palaces are just the beginning of the expenses. Revenues from admissions are necessary to keep them open and operating. But experience has shown that visitor rates tend to decline after the first several years.

That leaves critics warning promoters that: "If you build it, they'll eventually stop coming."

Source: Charles Passy, "The Irresistible Hall of Fame," Wall Street Journal, April 4,2003.

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