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Hall of Fame Sailing to Newport

Struggling to raise funds in Annapolis, project pulling anchor at City Dock
      Plans to relocate the National Sailing Hall of Fame from Annapolis to Newport, Rhode Island, are gathering new momentum, with terms of the move expected to be final by Thanksgiving.
      Gary Jobson, president of the Hall of Fame, outlined plans for the move last month at a public workshop with city officials in Newport. The city is offering its Armory, a large waterfront building that Jobson called “absolutely perfect” for the Hall of Fame’s future home.
     It’s a tempting offer for the Annapolis-based nonprofit, which has long struggled to raise enough money to build a suitable Hall of Fame at its cramped temporary headquarters at the foot of City Dock downtown.
     “The problem we have had in Annapolis is raising enough money to build a building on the waterfront; not so easy,” Jobson said. “We’re really at a crossroads.”
      Jobson said the Annapolis site “has real trouble with rising water in the Chesapeake Bay,” while the 11,000-square-foot, two-story Armory building in Newport offers a ready-made site that would require little modification.
     “That’s what is so attractive” about the stone-faced Armory on Thames Street overlooking Newport’s harbor, Jobson said. “It’s a special structure … a historic gem.”
     Jobson said Newport Mayor Henry Winthrop called “out of the blue” earlier this year with the city’s offer to host the Hall of Fame, and the idea has rapidly gained momentum.
     A five-member task force comprising Annapolis and Newport officials is assessing what work needs to be done to renovate and convert the Armory into a Hall of Fame and work out the financial terms for the deal.
     “We’d like to work out a term sheet,” Jobson said. “We hope to work out an arrangement that would be fair to everybody.”
     As the arrangement for the building progresses, “we have some people working on what should be in it,” Jobson said.
      Mayor Winthrop is smiling through it all.
     “Barring some unforeseen event, or a better proposal, I don’t see why this couldn’t happen,” Winthrop said. “Gary really laid out how the Hall of Fame could fit into our site.”
     Lee Tawney, executive director of the Hall of Fame, was reluctant to discuss the possible relocation. 
     “I’m still raising money for here in Annapolis,” Tawney said.
      Tawney said the organization has raised $4.3 million, about half of the projected $9.5 million it needs to build a smaller, 7,000-square-foot headquarters and museum at City Dock in Annapolis. The Hall of Fame had far grander aspirations three years ago but downsized its plans after selling off part of an adjacent property and struggling with fund-raising.
      Newport already has the National Tennis Museum and is the storied host for several America’s Cup competitions. Jobson, who served as tactician for Ted Turner’s America’s Cup-winning Courageous in 1977, called Newport’s waters “the best in the United States” for sailing.
      Winthrop said there has been some talk of a win-win scenario, with the Hall of Fame’s physical headquarters and museum in Newport, while the Hall’s sailing outreach and educational efforts continue in Annapolis.
      “That would be the best outcome possible,” Winthrop said.