What to do, What to do?

Published on October 3rd, 2018

It is the classic battle of two cities steeped in the sport of Sailing. Annapolis, referred to as ‘America’s Sailing Capital’, hosts both the Maryland capital and an active racing venue on Chesapeake Bay. But to the north is Newport, with their bolster claiming it to be the ‘Sailing Capital of the World’.

Both are home to a lot of sailors, and both want to be home to the National Sailing Hall of Fame (NSHOF).

Annapolis has had the first chance, but has struggled to secure funds to fulfill their vision of a physical museum. Recently, Newport has stepped forward with a storied building on Thames Street. What to do, what to do?

In advance of a decision, NSHOF Board member Tarasa Davis shares a view of the situation:

The NSHOF has a strong group that wants to keep the NSHOF in Annapolis and the Governor of Maryland has come forward with a plan to make it possible. The state is several steps into the process, in a race to get the offer on the table so the NSHOF can make an informed decision. Moving to Newport is not a “done deal”.

In Maryland, the NSHOF has leased the property for years with restrictions that prevented them from enhancing the property. Now the Governor is offering to surplus the building which would enable the NSHOF to own it outright and enhance the prime waterfront property as part of a long desired Annapolis downtown City Dock revitalization.

With this position, the Hall can attract visitors to the city with a modern interactive museum tied to on-the-water programs such as STEM educational, inner-city kids boating, and wounded warrior and handicapped sailing opportunities that are unique to the Annapolis location for the NSHOF.

Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley called the Newport vote and the possibility that the Hall of Fame could leave devastating. “I’m not a quitter. We’re doing what we can do to make an option here.” Buckley has previously said that he sees the National Sailing Hall of Fame as part of his vision for the future of City Dock.

The NSHOF has the funds in hand to complete the anticipated purchase opportunity in Annapolis, which is comparable in price to that in Newport, and is working closely with the State of MD to complete the process and paperwork to realize the offer. Owning property outright will free the NSHOF to reach its potential, applying funds to benefit the sport of sailing.

“There’s 25 people on the board, and I can’t predict it (the outcome),” said National Sailing Hall of Fame president Gary Jobson. “We now have two good options for the Hall of Fame.” Jobson said his role is to present the information to his Board and did not give an opinion as to where the National Sailing Hall of Fame should go.

The NSHOF seems poised to fulfill the promise of the sign that welcomes over 2 million visitors to Annapolis each year: “Americas Sailing Capital – Historic Annapolis – Established 1649”. Where will Americas National Sailing Hall of Fame land…time will tell.

Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck asked Tarasa some follow-up questions:

What is the cost difference between the two options?

The building price in Newport of 1.7m and add at least 4m and probably more still to be determined, and compare that to Annapolis price of probably $3m and build new for $3m. Plus the other benefits with Annapolis are the docks and no shared ownership with a government. There are other restrictions with the Newport deal that won’t the Annapolis site won’t have.

It is the difference between an old encumbered building with more government involvement or a new building with water access, located in a prime area. Plus in Annapolis, we can scale the building bigger later if we need it – and we have a building now to keep operations running

And Annapolis has the Naval Academy, a longer sailing season along with how football brings thousands in winter. Annapolis has advantages.

But still money is needed, and it has been hard to come by.

The problem has been an old 9.6m lease threshold to build was too high and seemed like a pipe dream. But now that is gone and a fresh, outright buy offer is on the table. With this new position from the government, over 500k has been raised in a month.

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