Sporting events are an integral part of American culture as teams build a culture around their stadiums, ballparks, and fields. A key part of that culture are the mascots who create lifelong memories for kids and families that come out to support their favorite teams. Whiting, well known for its calendar of fun, family-friendly events, is building a Mascot Hall of Fame for families to come and learn about, engage with, and appreciate those icons of American sports.
Having recently completed construction on the building, Mayor Joe Stahura wanted to give the community a chance to preview the Hall of Fame before its grand opening a few months down the line. Visitors toured the museum’s halls and learned all about the planned exhibits.
“It’s all about the kids, having fun, and bringing in the parents and grandparents into town with them,” Stahura said. “It’s no secret that people were watching this project from day one. We constantly get requests for tours and questions about what’s going on. The idea today is to open up for a couple hours, let people come in and take a look, and get a free glimpse at what’s going on.”
The Mascot Hall of Fame honors outstanding sports mascots from all kinds of sports, both pro and collegiate. Inductees include the Phillie Phanatic, Mr. Met, Benny the Bull, Tommy Hawk, and many more. Founded by David Raymond, the original Phillie Phanatic, it used to be online only before the city of Whiting approached him about turning it into a permanent physical museum.
“We called David and asked him, ‘what do you think about turning your website into a permanent building,’” recalled Stahura. “He said we’re crazy and I said, ‘We are, so let’s try it!’ A year and a half later, we made a pact that took us to where we are today.”
While kids excitedly discussed and envisioned the future exhibits, many parents and grandparents were excited about the economic potential of the attraction. It is expected to draw an annual crowd of 50,000 to 100,000 people, generating almost $241 million in economic output and creating 95 annual jobs.
“This is big, and it’s bringing something special to Whiting for people to do,” said Ben Bombin, 17. “It’s such a good thing because it’s bringing Whiting together, but also people from outside of the city who might not know what Whiting is about and that’ll help a lot of local businesses.”
A wide variety of exhibits are planned, designed to both entertain and teach. The museum will teach kids about the athleticism of the mascots, the science behind them, and encourage creativity by letting them build their own mascots.
“I think it’s really cool,” said Ben Spajer, grandson of Al Spajer who is the Executive Director of the Mascot Hall of Fame. “I like the furry arts section, being able to build your own mascot is awesome. I’m excited to see it all done.”
To learn more about the Mascot Hall of Fame, visit their website.
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