After you’ve been in a place for 40 years, it’s only natural to think it’s time to update your surroundings, with an upgrade of the mechanical systems, and incorporating a fresh new look. That’s what the National Wrestling Hall of Fame is doing, with a major makeover in a two-step process that includes a just-completed set of exterior renovations and system upgrades, and, later this summer, a second-phase total transformation of the interior to incorporate new interactive exhibits for facility in Stillwater, Okla., according to the “Stillwater News-Press” Sunday and information provided to College Wrestling Examiner directly from the Hall.
Phase I of the project focused on a $750,000 exterior renovation, which included putting on a new roof, installing new heating and air conditioning systems, widening the walkway and doorway entrance, and adding the name to the exterior of the building. This work was completed in late spring, just in time for Honors Weekend, the annual event held at the Hall of Fame June 5-6 which this year welcomed Class of 2015 inductees, including Distinguished Members Frank Bettucci, Joe Gonzales, Sammie Henson, and Greg Johnson.
Phase II, which will get underway at the end of this summer, is all about the interior. “Wrestling greats of the past will come to life through interactive exhibits and touchscreen displays once the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum completes a $2.5 million interior renovation,” the “Stillwater News-Press” reported. The article went on to highlight one specific example of new technology in the facility which honors the oldest sport: interactive kiosks will allow visitors to pull up an honoree’s photos and biography, and learn more about that individual’s accomplishments and contributions to the sport, providing an experience that goes beyond merely seeing a name on the wall.
“Virtually every area of the museum will be renovated,” according to the Hall’s press release outlining the upgrades. “Visitors will encounter interactive exhibits while being immersed in the sights and sounds of wrestling’s greatest historic matches. The tour will culminate with the Hall of Honors were the most renowned heroes of wrestling are enshrined.”
The upgrades of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame – which first opened its doors in 1976 – address two challenges facing the facility: becoming more relevant… and remaining sustainable, according to Lee Roy Smith, the Hall’s Executive Director. Funding for the project has come from donations but Smith said another $400,000 is still needed to complete the project. “In a day and age where museums struggle to be sustainable, we have a very philanthropic culture of support from our constituency,” Smith told the “Stillwater News-Press”. “But it (funding) is always a challenge.”
“We can’t be relevant if all we expect is people to come here,” Smith added. “We have to have strong outreach program.” To that end, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame is also seeking funds to assist in new projects to extend its reach beyond Oklahoma, including $750,000 to renovate the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum in Waterloo, Iowa; $1.25 million for a traveling mobile exhibit; and $500,000 to enhance and provide more content on their official website, NWHOF.org.
During this interior renovation, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame will be closed to visitors from Sept. 1, 2015 to June 1, 2016. The facility is expected to reopen just in time to welcome the 40th class of inductees, their families and friends. While the facility is closed, staff will be relocated to a building on the nearby campus at Oklahoma State University.