Renton man proposes state sports museum

Renton resident J. Paul Blake wants to seize on the enthusiasm brought on by the Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory to create a state sports museum and hall of fame.

Blake created an online petition and is hoping that 10,000 signatures will get him the attention he needs to get it built.

“People love the idea, but of course they say who’s going to pay for it,” Blake said in a recent interview.

He pitched the idea to all the local professional teams, athletic associations, universities and scholastic groups six years ago to much support, or at least appreciation, of the idea, he said.

“The idea of who’s paying for it is to organize a foundation, which we have,” Blake said. “I’ve developed articles of incorporation, not only for the facility itself, but for the fundraising arm that hopefully gets the thing built, with the help of maybe a developer or somebody who has really deep pockets.”

Blake’s vision for this citizens’ sports center, as he calls it, is quite extensive. He envisions a sports complex or campus on par with the National Collegiate Athletic Associations’ complex in Indianapolis, Indiana.

“They were very smart,” he said referring to that center. “They basically tried to build a sector of their economy around sports. That’s a good example of not only their attraction, but getting all the events that they can and having the museum there and headquarters.”

Blake feels Washington can cash in on the same type of facility here by creating a sports health, medicine and administration headquarters around a sports museum. He sees potential profit in also having in-house catering, a restaurant, fitness center and an event venue space all under one sports center.

It’s not a new idea, according to the Seattle Sports Commission, but one that could gain more traction and renewed interest with the Seahawks’ win.

Ralph Morton, executive director of the Seattle Sports Commission, thinks the museum is a good idea.

“Sports is part of our culture in the region and certainly something that should be celebrated,” he said via email. “The Seattle Sports Commission annually produces the MTR Western Sports Star of the Year, which is a night to honor our current and past sports legends. It certainly would be great to have a place where this history can live, from the Huskies, hydroplane racing, Seahawks, Storm and other great sports entities in the region.”

The commission has considered the concept of a sports museum before, investigating a stand-alone organization to incorporating it into an existing entity, to creating a walk of fame in the stadium district.

“It is certainly something our organization would love to see, but would require significant funding sources to make it happen,” Morton said.

Blake has researched other hall of fame centers and believes the project could be helped with seed money from the state Legislature and a champion there. The sports museum could offer the state another stream of revenue as a tourist attraction, he said.

“You’d want to make it a very interactive dynamic venue, something that people will be excited about going to, not just a bunch of staid exhibits,” Blake said.

He sees kids’ exhibits where they can demonstrate their skill at a sport or pretend to be sportscasters. Blake is also an avid collector of sports and historical memorabilia. He’s hoping that once momentum behind the idea builds, others will step forward and want to donate pieces of the state’s sports history. High profile items like the Lombardi Trophy, he’d like to see on loan for periods of time at the complex.

As of Tuesday, Blake’s online petition had just 36 signatures after being live for a couple of weeks.

Blake’s next steps are to seek legal advice for the plan he’s already crafted for the center. He wants the project to be the undertaking of a steering committee and not just the vision of one person. He’s launched similar petitions in his home state of New Jersey, so is confident the public display of interest will start the ball rolling. Blake’s encountered a lot of people who’ve heard of his idea or read about it in his recent Seattle Times’ editorial, but not many people who follow through and sign the petition.

“It’d be awesome,” Blake said. “There’d be nothing like it, totally unique.”

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