It all started over a casual lunch of red beans and dreams…
In April 1991, the Mississippi Sports Foundation was conceived over a casual lunch at a Jackson eatery. Today, with enthusiastic statewide support and some 500,000 visitors later, this once casual concept proudly stands as “Mississippi’s First Museum for the 21st Century.”
Operated by the Mississippi Sports Foundation, Inc. (MSF), a non-profit corporation established in June 1992, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum occupies 21,542 square feet on Lakeland Drive in Jackson. The site, donated by the City of Jackson, is adjacent to the Jim Buck Ross Agriculture and Forestry Museum and across from Smith-Wills Stadium.
Memorabilia from the former Dizzy Dean Museum is also a part of the Museum’s second floor exhibit area.
The Jackson architectural firm of Cooke Douglass Farr Lemons/Ltd. (CDFL) designed the Museum shell with Communication Arts and Bud Hollomon of Jackson teaming to design the interior.
The Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum employs advanced media technology to create an exhilarating sensory experience for visitors, not only from Mississippi but from across the country and around the world. And since its official opening on July 4, 1996, the Museum has hosted visitors from every state in the Union and from dozens of foreign countries.
REMEMBER THE PAST… The goal of the Museum, is to provide an exciting and informative experience for every visitor. The Museum is especially concerned about keeping memories alive among the young people of today and tomorrow.
As the late Michael Rubenstein, the museum’s first executive director, pointed out, “By the time a youngster born in 2001 is 10 years old, it will have been 24 years since Walter Payton ran with a football, and 27 years since Archie Manning threw one, much less since earlier legends like Jake Gibbs, Bailey Howell and Dizzy Dean performed their athletic feats. That’s Jurassic Park for kids in the year 2011 unless we feature these sports heroes in a modern, hands-on format youngsters can relate to.”
Rick Cleveland, the veteran sports columnist who succeeded Rubenstein, concurs.
“We’ve got such an incredible sports story to tell in Mississippi,” Cleveland says. “Over the course of my sports writing career I covered Walter Payton, Jerry Rice and Brett Favre essentially from high school through the Super Bowl. You’re talking about the leading receiver and scorer, the leading passer and the second leading rusher in NFL history, all from rural Mississippi. What other state can come close to that? It’s a story we need to tell, tell well and keep telling.”
PLAY IN THE PRESENT… Sports events are combinations of sight, sound, and motion. Likewise, the exhibits in the Museum are combinations of sight, sound and motion.
Interactive kiosks dot the Museum. During their self-directed experience, visitors can retrieve archival footage, interviews and achievement data at their own pace with just the touch of a finger. The Museum is designed for visitors to learn by doing, listening and reading.
Funding for the Museum is derived from a partnership of private and public sources. The Mississippi Legislature approved the issuance in bonds to partially fund the design, construction, and exhibit production of the Museum.
Not one cent of tax money has been given to the Museum for its operation since it opened on July 4, 1996. The Museum raises 100% of its operating funds each year.
The 1993 Mississippi Legislature approved the issuance of $1,000.000 in bonds to finance construction of the Museum. The Coca-Cola Bottling Company also committed $1,030,000 to the project.
The 1994 Mississippi Legislature added another $2,500,000 in bonds, bringing the total obligated amount for construction, research, and design to $4,500,000. The MSF continues to raise funds for the project through a variety of fundraising events.
LOOK TO THE FUTURE… Since its opening, existing exhibits have been updated, and new exhibits and galleries have been added. From the sandlot to the Super Bowl, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum is a living, breathing testament to the competitive spirit – a $4.5 million state-of-the-art facility reflecting… tracing… telling… and re-telling the stories sports legends are made of….
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