Politically, it is always easiest to do nothing, to pass the buck, to kick the can down the road. That is why I would like to compliment the Newport City Council for crafting a solution to bring the Sailing Hall of Fame to Newport by subdividing the Armory Building into condominiums and selling the portion that will work best for the creation of a new museum dedicated to Newport’s most famous past time: Sailing. I have recently read letters in local papers by the operators of booths in the building, who have been renting from the city for many decades at discounted prices, claiming that there aren’t many advocates to bring the Sailing Hall of Fame to Newport. Nothing could be further from the truth. I attended the presentation by Hall of Fame representative Gary Jobson before the City Council and I saw a room filled to capacity with individuals who were strong advocates of adding this new institution to our already strong tourist and sporting portfolio. While we may not have been as loud as the few opponents who were present I would say our numbers were far more numerous and I believe that is also the case with the community as a whole. Let me briefly outline the reasons that I think this is a good idea.
1) The City is not ideally suited to be a retail landlord. This is a task much better and more properly handled by the private sector.
2) The money the City of Newport will receive can be used to develop the Ann Street Pier as a water taxi stop or for any one of a dozen great ideas that exist to make Newport a more comfortable, beautiful and convenient place to live or visit.
3) Newport is the sailing capital of the East Coast if not the world. Through our long history of yacht racing during the America’s Cup era, there is no place that is more synonymous with sailing than Newport, Rhode Island. Having the Sailing Hall of Fame here will both reinforce that great yachting tradition and be a natural fit for the institution itself.
4) We already bringing hundreds of thousands of tourist to Newport. These people are looking for things to do and places to go and the Sailing Hall of Fame will be a natural addition to their stays here in Newport, extending their engagement and increasing their enjoyment.
5) We already have a large number of complementary institutions like IYRS, Sail Newport, the American Ship Yard and five local yacht clubs. These will be a natural support to the Hall of Fame and benefit from its presence here in our community as well.
6) The antiques booths are relocatable to any location and do not require a waterfront building. They need to stand on their own merit and not benefit from a sub-market rent that is subsidized by every taxpayer in the community and I am sure they will get stronger and thrive once they do so.
This past weekend we witnessed another Tennis Hall of Fame induction and had the eyes of the world upon us in a very positive way and had a reminder of how beneficial it is to have this amazing organization located here in Newport. The Audrain Auto Museum is another sporting institution that is having a positive effect on tourism and the local economy. For all these reasons and many more I urge the city councilors and the community at large to support the relocation of the Sailing Hall of Fame to the Armory Building on Thames Street, because it is THE place it truly belongs.