2017-12-21 / Front Page

NSHOF Awaits Purchase Price for Armory

By Rob Duca

A decision on a potential move of the National Sailing Hall of Fame to Newport has been delayed until Monday, Jan. 8 when the organization’s 27 board members are expected to take a vote.

“We were hoping to get a consensus vote at our Dec. 12 meeting, but we needed more information from Newport, from the state of Maryland and on a proposal to become a virtual cyber organization,” Gary Jobson, president of the Hall of Fame, said on Dec. 19 in a phone interview with NTW. “I’ve asked the different groups to take another month to gather what we need.”

The board is considering a move from its current location in Annapolis, Maryland into the Newport Armory on Thames Street. There is also a proposal on the table to build a new museum in Annapolis, and one from U.S. Sailing in Bristol to create a virtual Hall of Fame. Jobson is not an advocate for a virtual cyber Hall of Fame. “I believe it’s better for the sport of sailing to have a physical place for people to go to,” he said.

The board hopes to consider all three proposals on Jan. 8. A simple majority of 14 votes is required on any of these options.

“What we need from Newport, and what we expect to get before Jan. 8 is the value of the [Armory],” Jobson said. “The city has said it doesn’t want to rent it, but prefers to sell it.”

The Hall of Fame currently has $2.1 million in the bank, is debt-free, and since October has been pledged an additional $600,000, Jobson said. “But we are not going to empty our account to purchase the building,” he said.

Newport City Manager Joe Nicholson, who is in negotiations with the organization regarding the purchase of the Armory, was unavailable for comment. But Newport Mayor Harry Winthrop said, “They have begun to talk of a price. I think [a final price] is at least a couple of weeks off, maybe longer. It’s not clear if we’ll be there by Jan. 8. There are a lot of moving parts because the city wants to stay in the building. This is one of those issues that doesn’t need to be done fast; it just needs to be done right.”

The city wants to remain in the building by renting the Newport Maritime Center that is located in the basement, Winthrop said. There is also uncertainty about what will happen to the Armory Antiques Marketplace. Its lease, which originally was due to expire on Dec. 31, was extended to Sept. 1, 2018.

The possibility of the National Sailing Hall of Fame relocating to Newport was first raised in August when Winthrop and Nicholson suggested the move to the organization after learning it was experiencing difficulty raising the necessary funds to construct a museum.

In October, Jobson gave a presentation to the Newport City Council at a meeting that was attended by current tenants and supporters of the Armory Antiques Marketplace and members of the sailing community.

He told the gathering, “The sport of sailing is special. It’s special to this state and this town. You’ve done a good job with [it]… But in a lot of ways, Newport has lost a little bit of the maritime industry. So, a sailing hall of fame makes a lot of sense.”

The board is also awaiting a decision from the state of Maryland on what can be done with the current Hall of Fame building in Annapolis, which is in disrepair, with structural, flooding, mold, asbestos and lead paint issues. Jobson said he spoke with Maryland Gov. Lawrence Hogan’s office on Dec. 18 and was told that a decision would be made after the new year.

“But the real question is can we raise enough money to build on city docks, which would cost $5 to $6 million,” said Jobson, who had been quoted a figure up to $10 million to build on the Annapolis waterfront. “We’ve been at it for 13 years and haven’t been able to do it, so that is a big factor.”

Although he has not expressed a preference between Newport and Annapolis, he said, “I’d be pretty comfortable if we go to Newport. Any place that’s called the Ocean State has got to be into the water. There is a long legacy with the America’s Cup and it has done well with the Volvo Ocean Race. Newport is truly an international sailing center. But we just want to do what makes economic sense.”

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