Debt, the killer
Hall of fame's distress a warning to other small institutions
08/04/2010 10:00 PM
Regular readers of this editorial page will recall that we’re big fans of the city’s smaller museums and cultural centers.
An opinion piece we ran here in April 2009 prodded readers to not forget about institutions like the Blues Heaven Foundation near 21st and Michigan, the Hellenic Museum in Greektown and the A. Phillip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum on the Far South Side.
Such institutions “add much to Chicago’s dense urban fabric. They recall forgotten histories and preserve important community moments. We wish them well,” that editorial said.
In this week’s Chicago Journal, we detail the escalating difficulties of another small cultural institution: National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame.
The hall of fame, struggling with burdens of debt connected to the construction of their sparkling Taylor Street headquarters, has transferred the building and its memorabilia to Taylor Bishop LLC, a group controlled by Jerry Colangelo, a longtime backer of the institution.
That move appears to have helped shape up the hall’s financial ledger. But the distress hasn’t gone away.
Bridgeview Bank has come knocking with a lawsuit, demanding the entirety of the hall’s collections in lieu of more than $9.4 million in outstanding loans, obligations that are now Taylor Bishop’s. Losing the memorabilia clearly would decimate the hall of fame, destroying an important part of its very reason for being.
In light of what we know about banks, we understand the suit and its demands as merely the opening bid in new negotiations about the unresolved debt and how to retire it fairly. Bridgeview doesn’t want to be in the business of owning athletic memorabilia, no more than they want to be in business of owning homes (see our story this week about the spate of foreclosure suits Bridgeview filed on the Near West Side in June).
The bigger issue here is that small cultural institutions, many of which have struggled during the recession and so-called economic “recovery,” need to hunker down and consider scaling back construction plans. Debt, for a small organization, can literally be a killer. We don’t want the small institutions in our neighborhoods and city to die from it.