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A new kind of sports museum could be heading to Chicago

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That is, if the crowdfunding campaign works or potential high net worth donors materialize.

Illustration of the proposed museum
via American Sports Museum

Chicago has the potential to welcome a new sports museum to its land. However, this institution has revealed an ulterior motive. You see, it will use sports as bait, reeling you in to catch lessons on physics, biology, history, race relations, medicine, law, politics, and international relations.

That’s a big promise to make, and they have a few examples of how they plan to do that on their crowdfunding page. Let’s start at the baseball gallery. Here, you’d be able to see Babe Ruth’s mitt while learning the physics of curve balls that he’d caught with it. In the football gallery, you can revel in great moments of your favorite Super Bowls, but also learn what an ACL is, what happens when it tears, and how it heals. In the Olympics gallery, touch a real gold medal and hear about the 1968 Black Power salute or the Munich Massacre. In the auto racing gallery, sit behind the wheel of a real NASCAR car and learn how a combustion engine works. Their video illustrates.

They aim to make this more than the sports hall of fame that you’ve come to expect. It will not be a place to “walk, look and read” information within one field of knowledge, but where you can see how that information ties across many different disciplines—all delivered under the guise of your passion for competitive sports.

To bring this idea to life, CEO Mark Lapides and Principal/Chief Strategist Roger Germann have launched an Indiegogo campaign with a goal of $50,000. At the time of publication, they’ve raised $1665. Crain’s reports that they're hoping for donations from corporate sponsorships or high net worth individuals, such as athletes who might want to name part or all of the museum building after themselves. "The first $1 million will be harder to raise than the next $49 million," Lapides says.

While their campaign claims that it will be a museum of the future, it’s not quite clear how they will do this. Storytelling that ties interdisciplinary lessons together are in the plan. But how those stories will take shape in the exhibits is yet to be seen.

Overall, they’re aiming to raise $50 million and find a permanent 100,000-square-foot location downtown that’s accessible to a varied group of visitors, from tourists to Chicago Public Schools students. With an opening date of about 2020 or 2021, the museum would employ 250 and have a $20 million annual operating budget.

From a national perspective, sports museums have had checkered track records. While Chicago’s for-profit Chicago Sports Museum at Water Tower Place has been faring well with interactive educational exhibits, other museums have struck out. The Sports Museum of America in New York City lasted for about nine months before financial issues closed its doors in February 2009. And Baltimore’s Sports Legends Museum closed after a decade in 2015 when it lost its lease.

rendering of American Writers Museum

Certainly, museums in Chicago could benefit from more wins. Although the American Writers Museum on Michigan Avenue will open May 16, The Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts fled for Los Angeles when opposing forces blocked it to protect lakefront land.

Do we want to lose this concept, too? If not, consider donating to their campaign. Otherwise, if you doubt the validity of its premise, then start thinking of a museum you’d want to start in the city yourself.