PHOENIX, Arizona, April 18. THE International Swimming Hall of Fame is considering relocating its world headquarters after nearly 50 years at the world-class facility that houses some of swimming's most treasured memorabilia.
As the organization begins to eye the 2015 expiration date of its 50-year contract with the City of Fort Lauderdale, ISHOF is exploring several options. One of them could be to stay in Fort Lauderdale, though its current location near the Atlantic Ocean is in jeopardy.
Another option is to transfer the headquarters to another city. Earlier this week, Santa Clara, Calif., was publicly named as one of the many cities ISHOF is considering for its new home base. An article in the Santa Clara Weekly mentioned that ISHOF CEO Bruce Wigo sent a memorandum of understanding that expressed interest in moving ISHOF cross-country to the city where legendary swimmers such as Mark Spitz, Donna de Varona, Pablo Morales, Mike Bottom and Don Schollander trained.
Wigo confirmed today to Swimming World that ISHOF sent the memorandum of understanding to Santa Clara, but said it's too early to say if Santa Clara will be the new ISHOF home.
“Nothing's official until the contracts have been signed,” he said.
Wigo has been looking at other cities in addition to Santa Clara for a few years, but he did not mention which cities have also captured his interest. He did say Santa Clara's demographics and the Santa Clara Swim Club's history make it a very attractive place to house the world's best aquatic sports museum.
“Santa Clara Swim Club has the most Hall of Fame inductees of any swimming club in the world,” Wigo said. “And the city has one of the highest populations of swimmers and divers anywhere. That makes it a great place to have our headquarters.”
Wigo stressed that ISHOF could stay in Fort Lauderdale if an agreement with city officials can be reached before the current contract ends in less than two years. ISHOF made Fort Lauderdale a hotspot for swimming tourism for decades, capitalizing on the world-class meets being held next door at the Swimming Hall of Fame Complex and annually holding a lavish Hall of Fame induction ceremony that brought the world's best to southern Florida.
With the city still undecided on the future of the three pools in the complex, ISHOF's future also seems uncertain, hence Wigo's nationwide search for options.
Though Wigo's chief concern is finding a base for the world headquarters, he said he's also looking at ISHOF satellite museums, an idea he began to formulate in 2011 when he brought exhibits to the world championships in Shanghai. He repeated that concept in 2012 with an exhibit in England.
“We certainly have enough memorabilia to take it (the Hall of Fame) to several museums,” Wigo said.
Among the aquatic sports treasures housed at the Hall of Fame are Olympic medals dating back to 1896, apparel worn by Olympic heroes, newspaper and magazine articles, books, videos and photographs.
Though Wigo did not give a timeline for making the final decision on ISHOF's fate, those who could be involved in bringing the museum to Santa Clara are already praising the possibility — and pledging to raise $10 million to fund the move, as well as a $2 million endowment.
“We want to do so in a way that appeals to everyone in the community, and contributes to the lives of everyone from children to seniors,” said Santa Clara Blue and Gold Ribbon Commission co-chair Patrick Yam. “This project has a huge potential for synergy across the community.”